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Film

Watch a video explaining the unique action comedy of Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan is definitely among the greatest action stars of his generation and for very different reasons compared to many of his contemporaries. Carving out a unique space for himself that combines the worlds of action and comedy, Chan has managed to become a cultural icon for both Eastern and Western audiences.

Through his inimitable work, Chan has proven that action cinema and comedy operate on very similar principles. Utilising the full potential of the cinematic medium, Chan mastered the art of visual comedy by working within the highly effective frameworks of the action genre that dictate movement as well as composition.

A major part of his comedic essence is his hilarious rise from the status of an underdog to a more noteworthy position. This trope has been around for years now, championed by the giants of the silent film era such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and many more. Chan uses this tactic very efficiently and it blends in with his action style.

One of the most distinct characteristics of a Jackie Chan action flick is the incorporation of the mise-en-scène into his choreography. By using various elements from the environment, Chan often conjures up unique scenarios that find the perfect balance between action and comedy. These visual jokes resonate with fans because they are truly special.

His work has influenced other pioneers of visual comedy as well, including Edgar Wright. In an interview, Wright explained that it was impossible to copy Chan’s style because he was inimitable: “No matter how many people try and rip off Jackie Chan movies, there’s something which they can’t rip off which is Jackie Chan himself.”

While talking about his perception in the minds of western audiences, Wright explained that Chan’s persona was antithetical to that of a traditional martial artist. “Jackie Chan, especially at that time was kind of an anomaly because, especially in the Western world, most people’s idea of a kung-fu fighter would be Bruce Lee,” Wright added.

Although Chan has worked in Hollywood, the magic of his Hong Kong action films did not work the same way in the US because of the different understanding of action by American directors. Chan preferred the lack of camera movement and wide-angle filmmaking to capture the action and reaction within the same frames.

However, Hollywood directors often disrupted the natural rhythm of Chan’s action by cutting at crucial moments and neutralising the force behind the action sequences. These divided the action and the reaction into different shots while also eliminating the rhythm of Chan’s movements which is so crucial for his brand of action comedy.

Watch a detailed explanation of Jackie Chan’s action comedy below.