A jarring pair of buddies

Johnny Knoxville and Jackie Chan (both above) star in Skiptrace.
Johnny Knoxville and Jackie Chan (both above) star in Skiptrace.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / ACTION COMEDY

SKIPTRACE (PG)

107 minutes/Opens on Friday/2/5 stars

The story: After the death of his partner, Hong Kong police officer Bennie Chan (Jackie Chan) is bent on proving that businessman Victor Wong (Winston Chao) is the crime boss known as The Matador. By chance, scam artist Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville) ends up with evidence that could implicate Victor. He also falls for Bennie's goddaughter Samantha (Fan Bingbing), who works at a Macau casino. But first, Bennie has to rescue Connor from the clutches of a Russian gang.

As with any Jackie Chan live-action cartoon, fans can expect the usual mix of smooth moves and humorous gags from the action star in his latest work.

But Skiptrace, which is a travelogue in the guise of an actionadventure comedy, feels more lacklustre than the average vehicle for the star.

Thanks to his passport getting destroyed, Bennie, along with Connor, has to take the scenic route in the journey from Russia to Hong Kong - because, clearly, that is the fastest way to go, with Samantha in the hands of the bad guys and the clock ticking away.

They tangle with traditional wrestlers in Mongolia and there is a campfire rendition of Adele's Rolling In The Deep complete with the region's famed throat-singing. In China, they come across a festival and find time to set alight a Kongming, or sky, lantern and then have to sing in order to cross a throng of women in ethnic costumes.

All the while, Bennie is spouting factoids a la a travel show host, until Connor snaps: "Are you on Wikipedia all the time?"

Renny Harlin, who has five Golden Raspberry nominations for Worst Director, could have done with a greater degree of such self-awareness in his approach to the movie.

Instead, he muddies the water with touches such as a choice of hillbilly western songs for the soundtrack. The music mayhem is compounded by a caper involving Hong Kong cops and criminals speaking a version of English as jarring as the buddy pairing of Chan and Knoxville.

The odd couple are a notch above the dud duo of Wallace Chung and Lee Min Ho in Bounty Hunters, but not as entertaining as Chan and motormouth Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour movies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'A jarring pair of buddies'. Print Edition | Subscribe