Hollywood loves Asia's biggest action stars. But the American motion picture industry definitely doesn't know what to do with them.
Lofty box-office proceeds notwithstanding, "Rush Hour" wastes the talents of Jackie Chan in a story that's strictly a by-the-numbers retread of "48HRS."Admittedly, the comedy-thriller features some of Chan's usual acrobatics and a couple of scenes in which he displays his customary charm. But more often than not, it forces him to play second-banana to loudmouthed irritant Chris Tuck-er.
And neither of his fellow Hong Kong stars, Jet Li and Chow Yun-Fat, have fared too well with their recent U.S. cinema adventures, either. (Those would be "Lethal Weapon 4" and "The Replacement Killers," respectively . . . just in case you've forgotten.)
In fact, only Chan's former "Supercop" co-star, Michelle Yeoh, has made a real splash here - when she stole "Tomorrow Never Dies" out from under Pierce Brosnan.
These talented performers have come to the United States in the wake of the changeover of Hong Kong ownership, in hopes of finding success in America. (They are already stars in just about every other world market.)
But let's take a look at the types of roles being offered to them - sidekick (Chan), villain , anti-hero (Chow) and romantic interest (Yeoh).
Is it any wonder the experiment isn't working?
Even worse, some of their former directors, Tsui Hark ("Once Upon a Time in China"), Ringo Lam ("Full Contact") and Stanley Tong ("Supercop") haven't exactly set the world afire with their U.S. efforts, either ("Knock Off," "Maximum Risk" and "Mr. Magoo," respectively).
There is some hope, though. John Woo, who found success here with "Broken Arrow," has announced plans to remake his Hong Kong hit "The Killer" (1989), possibly with Chow and Yeoh as its stars.
Whatever the future may hold for them, however, Chan's success in America would seem to be assured after "Rush Hour" - he'll be fighting off hordes of movie offers.
Of course, maybe he shouldn't be in charge of selecting his own next project.
His taste is suspect since, according to several published reports in Asia, Chan has signed a contract to fight former world karate champion Ernest "The Cat" Miller on a pay-per-view wrestling special.
- FICTION IMITATING FACT: And if Chan and Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone's forays into pro wrestling aren't weird enough, there are even stranger things cooking on the set of "Man in the Moon," the Milos Forman drama that stars Jim Carrey as the late funnyman Andy Kaufman (best known as Latka on TV's "Taxi").
Last week, Carrey allegedly got into a scuffle with pro wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler following the filming of a scene, which sent the actor to a nearby hospital with a neck injury. It seems that Lawler pile-drivered Carrey because the actor remained in character once the cameras were turned off.
Uh-huh. If you remember, Kaufman was injured by Lawler in a similar fashion, when the comic embarked on a brief wrestling career.
So don't be surprised if this turns out to be a hoax created by the film's producers and Lawler's employers - the World Wrestling Federation.
Or if it winds up being a pay-per-view bout between the two.
- IT'LL HAVE TO BE A MUCH, MUCH SHORTER MOVIE: As weird as it sounds, gross-out filmmakers Bobby and Peter Farrelly have approached 20th Century Fox officials about a theatrical re-release of their raunchy, R-rated comedy "There's Something About Mary" - in a PG-rated version! And perhaps even by the end of this year.
For those of you who haven't seen the film in question, it's filled with overt sexual humor and extremely offensive sight gags - as well as some very funny (but frequently embarrassing) bits.
The Farrelly brothers recently told the Hollywood Reporter they were concerned the rating might have "prevented a significant chunk of the moviegoing public from seeing the film." (Maybe they should have thought about that before decided to throw in all the tasteless humor.)
Of course, the Farrellys also said they might consider re-shooting key scenes.
They'll have to, or else they'll be re-releasing it as a trailer-length short.
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I'm wildly overpaid as an entertainer in the crazy set of values that our world operates under, that's obvious. I'm not as well-paid as an arms dealer, but I'm much better paid than a nurse, which is completely wrong. Having said that, the money I get for this ad is going to enable me to spend a month on Madagascar doing a program about lemurs, for which I will only be paid lemur feed." - Comedian John Cleese, who is working on a series of television advertisements in England.