Rumble in the Bronx's indebtedness to Keaton can be glimpsed in the body-surfing scene.
Chan gets his foot caught up in a tow-line, falls into the Hudson, and then
water-skis behind a hovercraft. In College, Keaton did a similar bit with a
Plotwise, Rumble in the Bronx is somewhat cartoonish and backs off from tackling serious
issues that it initially raises, such as the problems of teenage gangs. Chan
brings Nancy (Francoise Yip) all too easily around to his way with a rather
glib appeal to family values: "Don't hang around with those guys. Spend more
time with Danny [her brother]. He needs you." And Tony's badass gang crosses
over to good after Chan kicks their butts and suggests next time let's not
fight but drink tea. Please.
Moreover, I don't think Rumble in the Bronx is as exciting as some of Chan's Hong Kong
films, especially Police Story (1985). This earlier film has a darker edge as
the framed and deranged cop, Chan, goes undercover to crush the drug czars.
The film also has several attractive bits: Chan hitching a ride to a bus with
an umbrella; Chan fighting a motorcycle in a mall; and an opening sequence in
which Chan chases drug lords through a shanty town, racing his car down hill
and blowing through buildings. It takes Rumble in the Bronx twenty minutes to get going
with two-fisted action. We don't need that much exposition.
But Rumble in the Bronx is a good, attractive film. It grossed over $10 million for its
weekend debut, and Chan's appeal to the kids in the theater--they were all
jumping up and down in the aisles, throwing punches and snapping back
roundhouses--has a lot to do with what we want our action stars to be. With
Chan, we're getting, the publicity posters suggest, the authentic action hero:
"No Fear. No Stuntman. No Equal."
Everything Chan does contains danger and wonder. "I'm crazy, but I'm not too
crazy," he says and it's that craziness and his desire to please that draws us
in--how's he going to top the stunts in his previous film? We love Rumble in the Bronx's
outtakes (played during the final credits) because they document the danger: Chan's broken ankle, the hurt
stuntmen, the ambulances. We also love the outtakes because along with
authenticating Chan, they also make danger fun. Chan, with his foot in a plaster cast, mugs for the
camera. And after clearing the parking-garage jump, he smiles and shakes his
The ebullient Chan once said that in America they make special effects films
(Bruce Willis doing a Die Hard stunt in front of a blue screen). Chan makes
action films. No blue screens. Just a forty foot drop.
Rumble in the Bronx is available on video and laser disc from New Line Home Video.
Photo Credits: New Line Home Video.