A Fan-Favorite Jackie Chan Movie Is Blowing Up On Streaming

By Nathan Kamal | 2 months ago

jackie chan police story

If there has been one constant in the world for the last fifty years, it is that Jackie Chan is awesome. Beginning as a child actor after years of training at the China Drama Academy in Hong Kong, he eventually broke through in Asia as a martial arts star in the wake of Bruce Lee’s untimely death. It took several decades more before he became a mainstream star in the United States, but it was not until 1998 that he really hit it big with the action-comedy Rush Hour. And though the movie is now nearly 25 years old, it is still a giant hit in the streaming world. Currently, the Jackie Chan/ Chris Tucker buddy cop movie is sitting at #10 of the most-watched movies on Netflix.  So what makes Rush Hour so special that fans still love it and audiences are still watching years later?

It is actually pretty simple: Jackie Chan. Though he is primarily known in America as an amiable action comedy martial arts star, and legendary for doing stunts that have left him seriously injured many, many times, he is actually one of the more talented entertainment talents to have ever existed. That is not hyperbole. When we say he trained at the China Drama Academy, that does not mean that he just learned to sing Mozart and then drifted into kung fu movies. No, his schooling involved acting, acrobatics, and weapons and martial arts training for up to 18 hours a day, for ten years.

Jackie Chan was considered the star student of his class, which also included future martial stars Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Reportedly, part of the contract of admittance to the school was that the students could be punished to the point of death over the course of their education. While this may sound horrifying, it is not really surprising that Chan would grow to be nearly superhuman talent on screen. In addition to his films, he has also had an immensely popular singing career throughout Asia, having released 20 albums in five different languages. So apparently, he did learn some singing at the China Drama Academy as well. 

While Jackie Chan was an anonymous stuntman in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee became a global action star. Chan actually worked in two of his films, Fist of Fury and the iconic Enter the Dragon (though you would need to go frame by frame to identify him being pummeled by Lee). Reportedly, Lee accidentally hit Chan in the face for real during a scene and took special notice of him after that time. But when Lee died in 1973, a vacuum in the kung fu movie industry opened up, and while many tried to fill it by imitating the legendary fighter, Chan took the opposite tactic.

Rather than emulate the enigmatic coolness of Lee, Jackie Chan employed a slapstick, comedic style that often saw him look like a lucky fool as a fighter. After breaking through in Asia with movies like Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, he eventually had his first American hit in 1995 with Rumble in the Bronx. But that was still a genre movie, filmed on the cheap in Vancouver BC, and distributed by Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest. 

Rush Hour changed things for Jackie Chan. It was first developed by Walt Disney Studios, with mega-fan Brett Ratner shepherding the project. It was eventually passed to Warner Bros subsidiary New Line Cinema. The plan (based on a spec script by Ross LaManna) was to make a Jackie Chan buddy cop movie, in the style of popular franchises like Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, and Die Hard. Martin Lawrence was considered as a co-star, then Wesley Snipes. And then Dave Chappelle. And then Eddie Murphy. Finally, Chris Tucker was cast. Rush Hour was an immediate hit, grossing nearly $250 million worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, that is over $400 million, off of an approximately $35 million budget.

So what made it such a hit? It’s not the plot, which is frankly forgettable. A diplomat’s daughter is kidnapped by gangsters, Jackie Chan is brought to Los Angeles to find her, Chris Tucker is a motor-mouthed rogue cop. But the key to Rush Hour is not in the plot or even the action of the film (which Chan has done far better, many times). It’s about how awesome Jackie Chan is. Rush Hour was a success because it showed how charismatic, funny, and ass-kicking he could be in the context of a big Hollywood film, not just as an imported action star.

While Rush Hour received decent reviews, the sheer commercial success of the movie made two sequels and a brief TV series an inevitability. Jackie Chan has largely retired from American films these days, though he is being courted by Marvel Studios for a Shang-Chi sequel. But people are still watching Rush Hour online and will be for a long time. Because Jackie Chan is awesome.