2 August 2010 | SamuraiNixon
Never act with babies or Kung Fu Masters
I did not enjoy the previous effort of a Benny Chan directed Jackie Chan film in "New Police Story" that I was definitely worried about a "Three Men and a Baby" inspired effort. The result was mixed, but going in with low expectations I was pleasantly surprised. "Rob-B-Hood" (US release name is a bizarre name change to "Robin-B-Hood" though in this movie there is no stealing from the rich to give to the poor; neither title is very good) is the third film in the collaboration between Benny Chan and Jackie Chan and Benny's first attempt at a comedic action film. While this film was successful in Asia it was not theatrically released in North America and most of Europe.
Jackie Chan and Louis Koo Tin-Lok star as mediocre bad guys Thongs and Octopus. Jackie Chan tired of stereotypical nice guy roles wanted to play a criminal, though his character Thongs is a burglar and compulsive gambler, the "good guy" nature of his character comes through quite clearly and his performance does not veer far from most of Jackie's previous personae. This role is a good step in broadening his experience as an actor. Octopus is a married womanizer who works with Thongs. He married very young to Pak Yin (the terminally cute Charlene Choi) and is doing his best to woo wealthy young women while avoiding his wife. Thongs and Octopus both work under the guidance of the Landlord (Michael Hui) a conservative criminal who hoards his theft while the other two spend their "earnings".
The Landlord has had his loot stolen by another criminal (he suspects everyone after this) so he allows himself to get contracted to a nefarious case to kidnap a baby for seven million dollars and give the infant to the possible grandfather to test if the baby is his sons (the son is dead and currently frozen in a very expensive decorated freezer). Thongs and Octopus both need the money so they acquiesce and help the Landlord with the felony. Of course, Thongs and Octopus, through a partially botched kidnapping attempt, are forced to take care of the cute defecating infant until they can reestablish getting the kid to who hired them. And, of course, they get attached to the baby (I cannot believe the baby got nominated for Hong Kong Film Award's Best New Performer category).
Some of the negatives of this film include the ill-defined female characters (it seems they would have been better characterization in the original three-hour workprint, but that meant a whole lot more exposition); especially Gao Yuan-Yuan's Melody character who I had trouble figuring out what her relationship with Thongs was the first time I watched this. Some of the baby poop jokes were overdone as well as some of the infant's scenes in general (reportedly the child was an infant terrible on the set; delaying shooting and helping push the film over budget). There is only so much you can do with a babbling, spitting, crying child with flatulence. Yuen Biao's Inspector Steve Mok character is definitely underused (as well as Michael Hui), though at least he gets more than a cameo in this film. And then there is the horrible overuse of Pepsi advertising including one scene where Jackie slides down a pole revealing the largest Pepsi graffiti I have ever seen.
I did end up liking this film though. There is a certain congenial innocence with the lead characters that works well in this comedic action hybrid. In most Jackie Chan movies there are little stunts that sometimes seem as throwaways but are quite dangerous and are done with Keatonesque ease. In this movie Jackie slides down a staircase column and props himself up with ease at the end. If he fell on the wrong side he could have been seriously injured, but since it is so effortlessly it seems so simple. Jackie Chan has used more wires in his stunts and it definitely shows in this film, but I do not fault him for it, since his body cannot handle the punishment like it used to. The stunt where he jumps from air conditioner to air conditioner to the bottom of the street is impressive (even if a wire was used) and his and Louis Koo's stunts in the amusement park owned by the grandfather (location was Ocean Park) were quite good. In fact Jackie was said to be impressed of Koo who was willing to do many of his own stunts in the movie.
There could have been more fighting in this movie but there is a good scene in the apartment of Jackie between Jackie, Yuen Biao, Ken Lo and more. It is inspired by a similar scene in Project A (this is also mentioned in the Benny Chan commentary), but still pleasant. While there are many faults in this film and I think that many action purists will not like this film, I found much that was enjoyable from the comedy to the action and stunts. Now please Jackie no more movies with babies.