Action Movie Fanatix Review: Shinjuku Incident

Shinjuku Incident banner

Starring: Jackie Chan, Naoto Takenaka, Daniel Wu, Fan Bing Bing

Director: Tung-Shing Yee

2009  |  119 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Looks like she’s in love.  If I were her, I’d kill you.” – Inspector Kitano

I’d been wanting to check out Shinjuku Incident for a while because… well… Jackie Chan.  I had absolutely no idea what it was about but Jackie Chan was on the cover so I knew it was at least worth a watch.

Shinjuku Incident follows the life of Steelhead (Jackie Chan), a Chinese immigrant who illegally fled to Japan in search of a lost love.  He soon finds himself a member of the Yakuza and embroiled in a growing Tokyo gang war.

Since I had no idea what Shinjuku Incident was going to be about my expectations were a little off.  Shinjuku Incident isn’t your usual Jackie Chan action martial arts romp.  In fact there isn’t a lick of martial arts in here and Steelhead gets his butt kicked at just about every turn.  It’s much more of a crime thriller in the vein of The Departed than it is an action movie.  Unfortunately for Jackie (and the viewer) Shinjuku Incident is nowhere near as enthralling or entertaining as The Departed.

I often find myself having a hard time reviewing some Chinese and Japanese films that are more than simply action / martial arts movies.  I honestly don’t know a huge amount about the countries’ histories and/or mythologies.  It makes it tough to know if a movie like Shinjuku Incident would hit more closely to home for the people in China/Japan than it does for me.  I am left reviewing a very Eastern movie from a very Western perspective.

The movie starts as Steelhead enters Japan for the first time and connects with some of his fellow Chinese immigrants.  He starts off working pretty menial jobs to get by but ultimately ends up in the Yakuza.  We end up watching an escalating gang war with Jackie Chan stuck in the middle for the rest of the movie with a poor sense for the passage of time throughout.  It really doesn’t paint a very attractive picture of Japan and makes you wonder if this was China / Hong Kong movie makers bashing on their Japanese rivals or if it is a realistic interpretation of that time period in Tokyo.  As previously mentioned, I am not well versed in Chinese history so Shinjuku Incident left me wondering not only about the crime and corruption in Japan but also why so many Chinese men and women felt the need to illegally flee to Japan in the first place.

Shinjuku Incident shows us the new, more mature Jackie Chan, not the goofy Jackie Chan we have seen (and loved) for many years.  Honestly, I don’t think I like the new Jackie Chan.  The guy can act, I’ll give him that but I don’t want all of Jackie’s future movies to be dark and gritty, no kung fu Jackie Chan.  That’s just not right.

The other main character of the movie is Daniel Wu’s Jie.  He is a kind of tragic character… too innocent for this lifestyle yet, after getting his hand chopped off and getting addicted to drugs, he is the one who suffers from it the most.  The problem is the portrayal of Jie, whether because of Wu’s acting or the character’s writing, is not one that made me feel sorry for him in the least.  He starts off as something really likeable but by the end you really don’t like the guy.  I don’t think that is quite what they were going for.

Shinjuku Incident is interesting for a long time Jackie Chan fan like myself.  It gives us a glimpse of what we may have in store for future Chan installments but hopefully he is able to find a happy medium to what has worked so well for him for so many years and this.

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