Rating: 2 stars
Quick take: Sinks without a trace
If you haven’t heard about Skiptrace, it’s a buddy action movie featuring Jackie Chan. Hollywood’s obnoxious comedy and gag expert Johnny Knoxville fills into the buddy part. Jackie Chan is an expert at these sorts of films; he’s had the Rush Hour series with Chris Tucker and the Shanghai Knights series with Owen Wilson. While both actors are in their comfort zone, that does not translate into any sort of goodness for the movie. Skiptrace suffers from amateur execution, listless writing and the burden of its socio-political ambitions.
This film is made with two main objectives. One is to showcase China as an exotic tourist friendly location. The second is to be as to be commercially viable on an international level – appeal to all markets around the world. So you have exotic Chinese locales, even Mongolia and the Gobi desert on offer. As well as the universal appeal of an American cowboy / conman in the middle of a multi-country adventure. Sadly, where such a formula worked wonders for the Rush Hour movies, Skiptrace’s horribly jaded writing keeps the cinematic quality at direct to TV and or DVD levels. Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong cop on the trail of a dreaded Chinese crime lord by the name of Matador. Johnny Knoxville plays an American swindler who steals money from the Chinese mafia’s casino and manages to impregnate a Russian don’s daughter. The word Skiptrace means locating someone’s whereabouts for a paid job. Kind of like a mix between a bounty hunter and a private investigator. So Jackie Chan becomes the Skiptrace expert and Johhny Knoxville the guy who’s being chased by the Russians and the Chinese.
Their journey begins in Russia as they travel on land from the Siberian plains through Europe and Asia right up until China. The two guys are forever arguing and fighting, but their exotic journey helps them bond and fight off the bad guys. If they’d stuck to the action comedy part, Skiptrace would’ve been a decent watch. But the movie has to also make way for its big Chinese tourism sell. So you’re given random shots of the Chinese countryside as well as the Mongolian Gypsy culture which just dilutes the fun of the film. It doesn’t help when a Mongol tribe looking like ancestors of Genghis Khan randomly break into an Adele song. The absurdist humour and the lets kick someone between the legs gags ruin the movie. Not the mention the twist at the end, which is worse than any recent M Night Shaymalan movie.
Jackie Chan is still doing his stunts, so the action looks slick and fabulous. Johnny Knoxville is a heady mix of irritating and charming all at once. But the lead actors never quite rise above the trite script on hand. Winston Chao, who was last seen as the bad guy in Rajnikanth’s Kabali is also the main antagonist here and that should be a novelty moment for Indian viewers. But apart from its cast, Skiptrace has very little to offer that you can recommend, enjoy or even remember. This Chinese-American goulash with a sprinkling of Mongolian and Russian elements is just all over the place.