I don’t know what to think about Jackie Chan. The Hong Kong action hero was one of the first Asian movie stars to really make a dent in the Western market (well, with the exception of Bruce Lee), and it looked like Rush Hour would give him the same kind of juice in America that he had in Hong Kong. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and he’s been mired in the swamp of family-friendly action comedies like so much Hulk Hogan ever since.
The Spy Next Door starts off bizarrely, with a montage of scenes from other Jackie Chan films. Why? Not… not entirely sure. And it just gets less compelling from there, with Chan as an undercover CIA agent infiltrating a Russian base with his partner… Billy Ray Cyrus. And then there’s Chan’s boss… George Lopez. By this point, I was wincing. Throw in a secret formula to turn oil into dust (ahh, secret formulas, the hack scriptwriter’s MacGuffin of choice) and a by-the-numbers script (His girlfriend finds out his secret! There’s problems! A kid saves the day and then he has to save the kid) and the movie basically runs itself on comedy autopilot.
This is going to sound weird, but what Jackie Chan needs now is a Quentin Tarantino. Remember where John Travolta was at in his career before Pulp Fiction? Chan needs a director who will forcibly push him out of his aw-shucks mugging into something that lets him actually stretch his atrophied acting muscles. Until then, it’s sharing billing with Billy Ray Cyrus and rushing to DVD.