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BLEEDING STEEL (2017) review

July 6, 2018

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written by: Leo Zhang, Erica Xia-Hou and Siwei Cui
produced by: Paul Currie, Jaycee Chan, Aileen Li, Bin Sun, Hungyao Chuchen, Defu Jiang, Edward Li, Jerry Li, Qin Li, Ke Wang, Zhiqian Li, Quan Liu, Fei Xu, Yang Yue, Grace Zhang & Allen Zhu
directed by: Leo Zhang
rated: R (for violence and some language)
runtime: 110 min.
U.S. release date: June 6, 2018 (VOD/Digital, AMC Woodridge) 

 

It’s best not to figure out “Bleeding Steel” or even try. The ridiculous title alone of the latest Jackie Chan actioner is a head-scratcher, something you’d call the fourth album from a big-hair metal band from the 80s. Ironically, that’s the decade Lionsgate Premiere is marketing for the U.S. release, as they describe this Chinese movie as “an action-packed drama reminiscent of 80s techno-sci-fi thrillers” (to name just two of the genres that are riffed on here) in their official synopsis. I suppose that’s right, since the movie resembles the kind of late 80s/early 90s B-movie that would star Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren (either or both), but even those movies were more tonally streamlined than this convoluted and unnecessarily confusing mess which seems to blend so many elements from Chan’s previous movies and pour them out into a 32 ounce cup from 7-11.
That’s not to say the movie is bad, I’m just providing context. Within its own parameters, “Bleeding Steel” is stupid fun. After all, it’s still a blast to watch Chan physically exhaust himself to no end in every movie, whether it be in a dramatic high-stakes action sequence or in the comedic bits that those sequences are often infused with. The action icon came out with four films last year, “Bleeding Steel” being one of them, and that’s not counting the two animated features he lent his voice to. I’m sure the latter two were a welcome breather from all the bruises he inflicts upon his 64-year-old self in each movie he endures.

The “Bleeding Steel” confusion begins as the movie opens, as action-packed sequences lasting about twelve minutes play out. It’s then that we’re introduced to Special Agent Lin Dong (Chan), who’s racing through the streets of Hong Kong in order to make it to a hospital where his leukemia-stricken young daughter is in critical condition. At the same time, he receives a call from his partner, Xiao Su (Erica Xia-hou), who informs him that critical witness/geneticist, Dr. James (Kim Gyngell), is in jeopardy and must be escorted into protection. Before Dong and his armed police entourage arrive, the doctor injects himself with some kind of potentially nuclear substance that is somehow connected to a mechanical heart he created. It’s unclear and it doesn’t feel like it even matters. Twelve minutes in and I’ve already resolved to just hope for entertaining nonsense. After all, it’s not a good sign if I’m totally lost this early in.

 

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Of course, the police escort doesn’t go down smoothly and sure enough they are ambushed by a handfull of high-tech armored goons dressed like an updated version of Spaceball troopers, led by an unintentionally hilarious-looking “bad guy”, who might as well have “Villain” tattooed on his forehead. Later on, we’ll learn that his name is Andrew (Callan Mulvey, “300: Rise of an Empire”), a great name for a super-strong and supposedly unkillable baddie in a flowing cape, who looks like if Marilyn Manson got assimilated by The Borg. From what I gathered, he’s after the geneticist for some kind of immortality serum, because when you’re an evil mutant dude, death is an annoyance.

This violent encounter goes down on what looks like a studio backlot and is intercut by writer/director Leo Zhang (who ‘s previous writing/directing credit was 2012’s “Chrysanthemum to the Beast”. an action rom-com starring Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie and one of many, many producer’s on this film) with scenes of Dong’s daughter’s final moments in the hospital. Yes, the daughter dies – or not.

The rest of the movie takes place thirteen years after that event – in Sydney, Australia, for some reason. There’s a blurb on the news about an author named Rick Rogers (Damien Garvey), who wrote a book called Bleeding Steel, which revolves around a girl with a mechanical heart. Wait, what? This is where we meet the comic relief of the movie, Li Sen (Taiwanese singer Show Li), a tech-savvy young man dressed as a prostitute to infiltrate the author’s hotel room to download some information. He’s forced to hide when a black-clad woman (Tess Haubrich, “Alien: Covenant“) comes bursting in, accompanied by those Spaceball troopers from earlier, proceeding to torture Rogers until  he reveals the inspiration for the novel he wrote.

 

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This is when Dong re-enters the story – who knows what he’s been doing for thirteen years or what brought him to Sydney (let’s face it, it’s a nice location to shoot a movie) – wearing a stocking mask to hide his identity, hoping to find the same information as the Black-clad Woman. The altercation leaves the author dead and both pursuers without answers as the police close in on the scene. Dong somehow teams up with Li Sen and the two of them begin to follow the trail of a young woman named Nancy (Taiwanese musician Ouyang Nana), a Chinese university student who has strange recurring nightmares of mysterious operating rooms in which she is the patient.

We eventually learn that Dong has taken a handful of odd jobs that put him close proximity of the girl, because she’s his daughter. Again, there are no surprises or twists in “Bleeding Steel”, just one implausible and ridiculous situation after the other. It’s no surprise that the Black-clad Woman (seriously, she has no name) reports to the evil Andrew, who somehow zips around above Sydney in a spaceship-like vehicle. Still in search of this immortality serum, Andrew believes Nancy to somehow be the key and continues to send Black-clad Woman after her as Dong and Li Sen try to keep her alive. Amid the inevitable endless chases along Sydney’s streets and on top of the iconic Opera House, we learn a few interesting things that left me shaking my head and kind of impressed that Zhang is able to squeeze so many convenient and inconceivable plot points into his fast-paced picture (I learned that everything in Sydney takes place in 2020 via the “Goofs” section of the movie’s IMDb page).

 

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Neither the science nor the psychology of “Bleeding Steel” matters, in a movie more concerned with showdowns, crotch-kicking gags, laser guns and old-school fisticuffs. At this point in his career, the desire to watch Chan’s movies come from a place of curiosity that nags me into pulling the trigger. Chan is still game for anything and is typically the best thing in his movies, whether he’s singing Adelle in a Mongolian field (2016’s “Skiptrace”) or aiming for an action thriller that’s atypically serious, like in last year’s “The Foreigner”, it’s always interesting to see what he’s going to do next and where he’s going to take us.  After glancing through the eight upcoming projects listed on his IMDb dance card, it’s clear he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon and I’m fine with that.

There may not be anything groundbreaking within “Bleeding Steel”, but I still found myself surprisingly entertained by all the bombastic nonsense offered. Sure, most of the acting is woeful and the screenplay is downright silly, but if you’re able to go with it, you’ll get some laughs and maybe even wind up impressed by the movie’s commitment to such crazy nonsense, like I was.

 

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RATING: **

 

 

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