Jackie Chan plays a tractor mechanic nicknamed Steelhead and enters Japan illegally like many others in the 1990’s. There he meets Jie (Daniel Wu), his friend and they do laboring jobs to make a living. Steelhead also meets bar owner Lily while a turf war is brewing in Shinjuku between rival Yakuza gangs. While at the bar, Steelhead recognizes the wife of a mob boss who happens to be someone from his past. He can no longer resist the urge to get involved. Set mostly in Tokyo, Derek Yee’s hard-boiled, gangster flick Shinjuku Incident has some pretty nasty violence. A defiente change for those used to domesticated Jackie Chan films.
As Steelhead, Jackie Chan has finally moved on from his “Mr. Nice Guy” image. He is now hard-edged and morally ambiguous with no cues for graceful acrobatic stunts or heroic showdowns. Since he’s there illegally, life gets tougher, and Steelhead decides to earn a living by doing illegal activities, including selling phony phone cards and cheating at slot machines by tampering with the microchips. Jackie Chan’s last few movies have not been big hits and Shinjuku Incident will not end that streak. At least, it is better than The Tuxedo, right? Fans of Chan may be disappointed with Shinjuku Incident because the mix of laughs and kicks that has made Chan a international star are missing here. Replacing the laughs and smiles are sorrow and anger.
Jackie really tries to take a more serious approach to his acting in Shinjuku Incident, but its a little hard to believe after seeing him play so many silly characters in the past. What he have is a welcome change of pace for Asia’s biggest export, he even bags himself a sex scene, and Jackie Chan fans will be happy to hear that Derek Yee has crafted an entertaining flick. So, again, Chan’s attempt to separate himself from his previous cinematic endeavors is commendable, I just kind of wished he had chosen a stronger project. Shinjuku Incident does contain a few fight sequences, though all of them are chaotic, graceless, and a bit sloppy.
The other acting is very solid. I mean after all the whole cast is made up of veteran actors which could act without effort at any given time. Suet Lam, Daniel Wu, and especially veteran Japanese actor Naoto Takenaka impress as well. Sadly, Too many plot holes and bad pacing had spoiled what could be a movie of both technical and scriptwriting brilliance. But apart from its faults, Shinjuku Incident is really worth watching. Sure, it may be difficult to follow and may not have much of an after-effect but it certainly proves to people that not only can Jack Chan act but can also play a deep character. Hopefully, it gets a more wide recognized release in America.