Possibly as a response to never ending jokes about the increasing age gap between him and his co-stars, Jackie Chan’s latest film “Rob-B-Hood” sees him featured alongside a young baby in a typical action packed comedy caper. The film is directed by Benny Chan (“Heroic Duo”), a long time collaborator of the Hong Kong superstar, having worked with him previously on the likes of “Who am I?” and the recent “New Police Story”. Thankfully, the results this time around are far superior to other recent Jackie vehicles such as “The Myth”, and although not quite as entertaining or stunt packed as some of his earlier films, once it gets going “Rob-B-Hood” does offer a solid mix of laughs and thrills.
The plot follows Jackie as the vaguely embarrassingly named Thongs, a thief who has an unfortunate habit of gambling away his ill-gotten earnings and who is deep in debt as a result. Along with his partner Octopus (Louis Koo, recently in Johnnie To’s Triad drama “Election” and its sequel, “Election 2”), Thongs accepts a job from their desperate landlord (Michael Hui) to kidnap a young baby, lured by the prospect of a massive reward. After wacky mishaps a-plenty, the cute toddler awakens strong paternal feelings in the two crooks, leading to complications when it comes to handing him over to his possibly crazy gang boss grandfather (respected mainland Chinese actor Chen Baoguo).
Strangely, “Rob-B-Hood” starts very slowly, as aside from a rather clumsily handled opening scene in which Thongs and Octopus save the baby during an expedition to steal medicine at a hospital, the baby doesn’t really feature into the story at all in the first forty five minutes or so. Instead, Benny Chan employs a series of cheap attempts to build sympathy for the thieves by introducing a variety of subplots relating to Thongs’ poor family and Octopus’ neglected wife (a brief appearance by Charlene Choi, noteworthy only for the fact that it sees her donning an oversized chicken suit) which only serve to slow things down in a haphazard fashion.
It has to be said that these scenes could have been left out entirely, which would also have helped with the excessive running time of over two hours. Of course, once the fun begins proper, these are tossed aside until the end, and the film for the most part delivers exactly what is expected, namely over the top set pieces and lame gags.
Since “Rob-B-Hood” is quite obviously a family oriented affair, with moral lessons and redemption very much the order of the day, there is not much in the way of fighting, with most of the action coming in the form of car chases, or due to the fact that most of the cast seem very keen to climb up and down the outsides of buildings. Some of these scenes are very well choreographed, and the film features a good few vertigo-inducing moments, especially during one which sees Chan leaping between air conditioning units at a dizzying height.
The thrills certainly come thick and fast, during the latter stages especially, and the amusement park finale makes for anxious viewing as the poor baby is repeatedly dropped and thrown around during some increasingly death-defying moments.
As well as being exciting, “Rob-B-Hood” is also funny, with a few genuinely amusing gags peppered throughout. Of course, most of the humour is quite literally of the toilet variety, with a number of graphic moments involving dirty nappies in faces. There are a few mature jokes, including a great cameo scene with Nicholas Tse and Daniel Wu which hilariously references “Brokeback Mountain”. Jackie Chan goes through his usual face pulling antics, with Koo gamely taking on a vaguely effeminate role as the baby’s surrogate mother. All of this works well enough to give the film a pleasingly amiable air.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to find much fault with “Rob-B-Hood”, which as a piece of popcorn entertainment certainly succeeds. Although a little chaotic, and needlessly convoluted during the opening stages, the film performs exactly as required, and does so in a likeable enough manner likely to charm viewers whether they be fans of Jackie Chan’s usual brand of kinetic slapstick or not.
Benny Chan (director) / Jackie Chan, Kam-lun Yuen (screenplay)
CAST: Jackie Chan …. Fong Ka Ho
Teresa Carpio …. Landlady
Baoguo Chen …. The Triad Boss
Charlene Choi …. Bak Yin
Yuanyuan Gao …. Melody
Louis Koo …. Octopus