Director : Leo Zhang
Cast : Jackie Chan, Show Lo, Nana Ouyang, Tess Haubrich, Callan Mulvey, Erica Xia-Hou, Kym Gyngell, Damien Garvey
Genre : Sci-fi/Action/Adventure
Run Time : 1h 47m
Opens : 21 December 2017
Rating : PG13
It was five years ago when Jackie Chan said CZ12 would be his last action movie. 63-year-old Jackie is still trucking, and is dipping his toes into the sci-fi genre with this film.
Jackie plays Lin, a highly-trained officer who has a run-in with Andre (Callan Mulvey), a ‘bioroid’ run amok. Andre is the creation of bioengineer Dr. James (Kym Gyngell), who has been placed in witness protection but is being hunted down by Andre. While Lin is working the case, his terminally-ill daughter lies dying in the hospital.
Years later, Lin, now living a new life in Sydney, Australia, discovers that Andre is still alive. The evil bioroid has his sights set on university student Nancy (Nana Ouyang), with whom Lin shares a mysterious connection (it’s really not mysterious at all, much as the movie would like to think it is). Hacker/thief Leeson (Show Lo) has been tailing Nancy, after finding a clue in the possession of Rick Rogers (Damien Garvey), a novelist who has written a story which bears striking similarity to the Dr. James case. Lin, Nancy, Leeson and Lin’s former police partner Susan (Erica Xia-Hou) must defeat Andre and his fearsome henchwoman, known only as ‘The Woman in Black’ (Tess Haubrich).
Bleeding Steel is spectacularly stupid, a stunning misfire that demonstrates how fundamentally China-based studios misunderstand the science fiction genre. Sure, there’s plenty of goofy sci-fi out there, but we’ve also seen smart, sophisticated genre films and TV shows in recent years which utilise the allegorical potential of sci-fi to comment on society.
Bleeding Steel can roughly be classified as cyberpunk, a subgenre authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson are closely associated with. This movie takes elements like genetic experimentation, mechanical organs, Frankenstein’s Monster-type cyborgs and futuristic blasters, mashing them up into a bizarre, confused product.
The movie’s conception of ‘cool’ seems firmly stuck in the 90s. The villain looks like the love child of a Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s incarnation of Mr. Freeze from Batman and Robin. His base of operations is a cross between the Helicarrier from The Avengers and the Star Destroyer from Star Wars.
The opening of the film contains a brutal, bloody firefight, indicating an intense, serious tone. All this flies out the window when the audience is served up ridiculous image after ridiculous image.
In addition to sci-fi gadgets and weapons that look surprisingly low-rent given the film’s high budget, Bleeding Steel tosses in a dose of the mystical. Nancy is seeing a medium who administer hypnotism to help cure Nancy of her recurring nightmares, and Australian illusionist Cosentino makes an inexplicable cameo as himself.
The action is generally fine. Jackie incorporates props into his fights, as we’ve come to expect from him, but this feels a little out of place in what is ostensibly a cutting-edge, high-tech movie. We get several decent-sized explosions and the shootouts are appropriately intense, if one can overlook how fake the prop blasters appear. Jackie and Haubrich face off on the roof of the Sydney Opera House in a sequence that wants to be impressive but is clearly hampered by safety precautions that were put in place. It all leads up to a generic “escape the collapsing lair” sequence.
Jackie is a safe distance from obnoxious, since this is more of a straight hero role and not quite a comedic one. But if obnoxious comedy is what you’re after, fret not, because Show Lo is on hand to provide it. As the comic relief sidekick, he is often straight-up irritating. An extended sequence in which he’s in drag is totally incongruous with the rest of the movie.
Nana Ouyang is sweet and likeable, but there’s a particularly uncomfortable scene in which another character rips open her blouse and we see the 17-year-old actress’ bra. It’s not in a sexual context, but still seems exploitative. Erica Xia-Hou handles the action beats competently, showcasing some impressive moves in a one-on-one fight with Mulvey. She pulls double duty, having also co-written the screenplay.
Mulvey, who had supporting roles in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, plays Andre. For all the carnage the character wreaks, he’s never genuinely frightening, in no small part because he looks hilarious. Mulvey delivers a performance befitting an old episode of Power Rangers.
As the femme fatale henchwoman, Haubrich struts about in a pleather get-up, coming off like a budget Eva Green.
There’s some novelty in seeing Jackie try new tricks, and in some parallel universe, there’s a version of Bleeding Steel that really worked, one that gave Jackie the opportunity to sink his teeth into a new genre. Instead, it feels like the iconic action star has been haphazardly grafted onto a silly sci-fi mishmash which generates more unintentional laughter than thrills.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars