Skiptrace and the Dichotomous Homogeneity of Its Two Stars

By  · Published on August 5th, 2016

Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville’s way out East blockbuster hit.

Jackie Chan is worldwide famous for his breathtaking action sequences where he performs his own stunts, often not needing any kind of set-piece (just give him a ladder) and almost always done in a comical way. Johnny Knoxville is America famous for his cringe-inducing action sequences where he performs his own stunts, often needing to build very specific set-pieces (just give him a rocket) and always always done in a comical way. Jackie Chan’s work ethic is unparalleled, choreographing every fight scene and optimizing every camera angle in order to get the perfect take, regardless of how many times they have to shoot it. Johnny Knoxville doesn’t seem to give a shit about any of that; if it’s not perfect, it just adds to the charm of his “just a regular guy getting kicked in the balls for your entertainment” allure. Both men have an affinity to make you laugh and put you in awe, even if it’s in an entirely (but not really) different way. Their pain is our amusement. One is poetry. The other is gutter prose. It seems like a match made in Charlie Chaplin heaven (or hell) that these two got together to make a buddy comedi-action romp.

Skiptrace is a mainly Chinese production and has already released in cinemas out in Jackie’s native land. Unsurprisingly, it’s doing very well. Jackie Chan has been super successful for a long time (look at this man’s filmography; he’s worked harder in one year than I have in my entire life, multiplied by a really big number that can only be represented with a made-up word, like crazetillion), but his greatest achievements in American cinemas is that of the buddy movie, with Owen Wilson in the two Shanghai movies and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour series. Jackie Chan with an American born star, much like his actual fisticuffs, is a powerful one-two punch.

The magic always unfolds the same way: Jackie and guest meet; they get in a fight with each other; they get in a fight together; they’re bffs. It’s a proven formula that I enjoy greatly. I really don’t care about the story in Jackie Chan films. I see the exposition bits as nice little breathers in-between gag/action sequence A and gag/action sequence B. (I thought they were recycling so much material here that they stole Chris Tucker’s character’s name. At 1:43 of the Skiptrace trailer, Jackie yells “CONNOR!” much like he would “CARTER!” in the Rush Hour films. I listened to it, no joke, like 30 times and would swear it’s just a dub from him yelling at Tucker in Rush Hour.)

I don’t know if Johnny Knoxville is a big enough draw to make much of an impact in the West. They both have mastered the craft of practical effects in their works, and that’s always refreshing in today’s CGI quagmire. It’s just they’re both getting old. Jackie’s still obviously fit, but he’s not about to walk through fire for just the hell of it anymore. And Knoxville’s bankable enough as the goofy sidekick to not really have to go get gored by a bull all the time. The trailer shows a healthy portion of real world effects, but you can clearly tell there’s going to be some computer wizardry for the more daring sequences. Which is unfortunate for me as the moviegoer, because these two were at their best when they laid it all on the line. It’s the end of an era. And it doesn’t look like anyone cares to take up that mantle.

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