Accidental Spy, The (2001) Review

"The Accidental Spy" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Accidental Spy" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Teddy Chan
Writer: Ivy Ho
Producer: Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min Jeong, Wu Hsing-kuo, Eric Tsang, Bradley James Allen, Cheung Tat-ming, Alfred Cheung, Ha Ping, Vincent Kuk
Running Time: 108 min.

By JJ Hatfield

Jackie Chan plays a regular guy who works at a store selling workout gym equipment. He has always had aspirations to have a more exciting career. One day chance brings him the opportunity to have that more exciting life he has dreamed of for so long. What he had never considered was that fame and fortune could have a darker side. And he certainly never thought he might actually be in mortal danger.

While on his work break he notices a couple of guys that just don’t seem right somehow. On a hunch he follows them and discovers they are there to commit a robbery. As he follows them at one point they all end up in an elevator with a woman who has no idea what is happening. Thus ensues a very good and quite amusing scuffle in the elevator. The dramatic fight with the thieves is played on TV which gets the attention of more than one person.

One night he happens to meet a private detective named Liu (Eric Tsang) who manages to worm his way into Bei’s home. He has no knowledge of his family and was raised in an orphanage. Liu convinces him he is really the son of a rich Korean who is dying and wants to see his son. His supposed father likes to play head games and tells him of a killer virus (anthrax variation that causes lung cancer?). More important to Bei is the money his father promises to him, but there is a caveat–he has to find it! His hunt takes him to Korea and Turkey. He meets a reporter who is investigating the virus mystery. Bei initialy is not enthusiastic but they become partners in the “game”. The closer he gets to his prize the more people seem to be after him. He meets an unusual women who seems to be trying to tell him something but she is involved with a very bad guy who deals in high end theft and drugs. She accompanies Bei to Turkey where they are swept into the locals misery and rage over the death of the people killed by the virus. The virus has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people. The stakes are high–life or death.

Will he be able to find the virus and his financial fortune? What happens next is up to him.

The last half hour is devoted to some intense action involving multiple people and various forms of transportation! Just when you think the movie is coming to an end something else happens on top of the original! The reporter seemed bored and must have filmed parts of scenes on one date and finished on another. Her constantly changing hair color is a tad annoying.

It was obvious Jackie was doubled in some scenes. He needs to forget about what he can no longer do and focus on all his other numerous talents! His acting needs some work–even Jet Li took acting lessons! Act or action, Jackie needs to do what looks good, not what he thinks he must be doing. Somehow he seems to have lost that perspective.

This movie does in several aspects seem like another version of “Who Am I?”, but it is not quite as good. Jackie doesn’t seem to be putting much effort into acting and some of the puzzle is too easy to solve. The fights are okay but nothing special. However the action filled ending redeems the film especially an “old time” crazy ass stunt with Jackie.

There are more than a few similarities between “Who Am I?” and “Accidental Spy”.

The writers must have decided to reuse bits that made WAI such a hit. Unfortunately that was not the end result. Still it’s a sometimes good movie, primarily during the last act and definitely worth watching a couple of times.

* Regarding different versions: This review refers to the HK version. There is also a US version. Don’t go for the US DVD! Another thing “Who Am I” shares with this movie is the total destruction of the film due to butchered, nonsensical editing! Even worse they changed scenes around just as in “WAI”? It totally destroys the movie and will leave fans confused ,disappointed and angry. Whoever edits these films seems to have no particular reasoning, just slice here cut there, switch chapter placement…etc.

* There is also a DVD “The Making Of The Accidental Spy.” This is not on the same version of the movie I have, it is a separate set of 3 disks It interviews the main stars, shows a few tricks of the trade in stunts and also has Andy Lau singing the song that was played at the end of the movie with ALL those credits. Making of Ratng: 3.5/10

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 7/10


By Alvin George

Like others here at City On Fire, I’ve generally had a ho-hum attitude about recent Jackie Chan movies (and recent HK movies in general, I might add) as of late. Chan’s apparently sorry-ass efforts to appeal to a broad audience didn’t really interest me. However, my spirits were somewhat uplifted by seeing “Accidental Spy” on Encore Mystery. Sure, it was not widescreen, but it at least reminded me of what Jackie could do best. It’s far from my favorite Chan film, but it should at least keep me modestly satisfied until I see “New Police Story.”

I must admit, though, that this one part of “Accidental Spy” was eerily reminiscent of a certain scene in “The Protector.” And was that really the bottom of Jackie’s scrotum that we saw?

Alvin George’s Rating: 7/10


By Numskull

To say that “this is not your father’s Jackie Chan movie” would be both far too vague and somewhat insulting. The Accidental Spy is a much more serious and intricately-structured effort than we’re accustomed to seeing from the clown prince of action cinema. The production values are through the roof by Hong Kong standards, with the only true visual lameness coming in the form of some rather fake-looking lighting during a scene at sea, and the whole film generally looks every bit as slick as a typical Hollywood action movie, if not slicker.

In most of Jackie Chan’s films, he plays pretty much the same character. Not so here. Buck Yuen’s adventure begins not because duty calls, not because he wants to make the world a better place, but because he’s trying to claim a large amount of money that he didn’t earn. Granted, just about anyone else in his position would have taken the same course of action…he doesn’t really do anything morally wrong…but it’s refreshing to see Jackie play less of a goody-two-shoes than he usually does (even if he IS still more inclined to try his hand at heroics than most people). It is believed that he holds the secrets of the new super-virus, Anthrax 2 (if and when this film gets Americanized, they’ll probably change it to Pinkeye 2 or something like that), and, in response to demands to hand it over, he simply says: “I don’t have it.” He speaks the truth, but other characters of his would go into miniature tirades about how he would never give it to someone like them even if he did have it, how everyone should coexist peacefully instead of trying to kill one another, how we should all settle every kind of dispute imaginable over a nice cup of tea, and so forth.

More decidedly un-Jackie-ish elements are the somber, shadowy, lonely-feeling scenes following the bank robbery near the beginning, the religious references (Jackie wears a plot device crucifix in this movie; his real-life stance on religion is that of the respectful non-believer), and strong female characters. Not “strong” as in “kicking asses left and right,” but “strong” as in “more than mere eye candy.” Min-jeong Kim plays pretty much the same role foolishly given to Michelle Ferre in Who Am I? (a movie which The Accidental Spy resembles in a couple of other ways as well). She doesn’t exactly light the screen on fire, but (assuming she isn’t dubbed…the whole movie seems to have been recorded with “live” sound) she speaks English quite clearly (the film also uses Mandarin and Cantonese at the appropriate points) and her performance is definitely better than Michelle Ferre’s (though, admittedly, it couldn’t be much worse). Then there’s Vivian Hsu as Yong, a mysterious siren with more than one nasty secret. Whereas many other actresses would do little more than annoy you with such a part, Vivian expertly captures your attention and shines even in Chan’s immediate presence. I would rate her performance as the best by a female in a Jackie Chan film since Anita Mui stole the show in Drunken Master 2. The other notable co-star, Eric Tsang, has very limited screen time disproportionate to his billing, and seems kind of thrown in just for the hell of it. Hey, whatever.

Our hero temporarily reverts to his old jackass-like ways for a lengthy scene in which he must elude and fight off multiple assailants while naked. His butt crack, which has been shown countless times already, is, of course, once again on display. As for the front end, Jackie’s unnamable and unmentionables are kept from burning their likenesses onto your mind’s eye through a combination of precise camera angles and various items grabbed throughout a Turkish marketplace. Congratulations are in order for editor Kwong Chi Leung, who presumably had to scrutinize each take of each shot to make sure the snake in the grass and its two eggs were not visible at any time. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no pecker checker…I didn’t inspect every frame with a magnifying glass…but you don’t have to look very hard to see that a masterful job was done where keeping Jackie’s meat whistle out of sight is concerned (and if you do happen to catch a glimpse of it, then, obviously, you were actively searching for it, and that’s something I’d rather not hear about). Bravo, Mr. Kwong. Bravo.

Moving right along, the film has a very good, expensive-looking action sequence at the end which could be referred to as a poor man’s Speed. The thing is, though…Speed is just under two hours long, and it still doesn’t generate as much excitement as The Accidental Spy packs into just fifteen minutes. Other tidbits from Hollywood action movies of the 1990s include the speeding vehicle smashing through stuff in true Jerry Bruckheimer fashion (The Rock…the only Michael Bay film I’ve seen and also most likely the only Michael Bay film I’ll EVER see), a stuffed animal to which far too much significance is attached (Con Air…a film so intentionally over-the-top that it’s more of an action movie parody than a “real” action movie and should be viewed as such), and the tractor trailer taking a nose dive from a great height (Breakdown…an under-appreciated flick with Kurt Russell in a role which could’ve been filled by just about anyone…but hey, he did fine). Yes, a climactic fight scene would have been nice, but of all the non-fighting action finales that Jackie has done, I say this one is the best (hell, I could sit here picking my nose and I’d still be more exciting than that monster truck shit from Mr. Nice Guy).

The Accidental Spy’s strongest point is one that I wouldn’t normally address…the soundtrack. I usually don’t pay much attention to musical scores in movies, but this one is truly exceptional. The adrenalized action themes are all well and good, but far better are the pieces that accompany the film’s quiet moments. Somewhat reminiscent of The Sixth Sense’s moody, subdued score but with a touch more melody and restrained use of a Gothic-sounding choir, this is far and away the best musical score I’ve ever heard in a Hong Kong movie, with the only other one that even comes close to this level of quality being that of Too Many Ways To Be Number One. If I had a hat, it would be off to composer Peter Kam. He has made an already good movie much better.

This is not a film that ultra-picky, elitist Jackie fans are going to rave over. It IS, however, a good action movie in general, and I unhesitatingly recommend it even to those who don’t much care for the earlier work of its unconventional star. A must-see for anyone who equates Hong Kong cinema with cheap, sloppy, throw-away productions.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10


By Klotera

When you watch this film, you may get both a sense of deja vu and uniqueness at the same time, at least as far as Jackie films go. On one hand, you have a film that mirrors Who Am I in many ways. Both are big budget, Hollywood-esque action films largely in English and they have many plot twists and characters that are completely analogous to each other. On the other hand, The Accidental Spy has a much more mature style to it than just about any other Jackie film. The film is somewhat divided into three segments, the introduction and plot setup, the main plot building part, and the final action sequence.

It is during the main plot building segment that the film has a more serious and moody tone than other Jackie films. Aside from some goofiness during fight scenes – this part of the film is dead serious, focusing on plot building, character development, and heavy handed themes. To match the serious and moody tone of the film, you’ll notice that it doesn’t shy away from showing violence and plenty of blood, much unlike a Jackie film. As unlike a Jackie film as all of this is, it actually works fairly well. Despite some contrivances in the plot and a small bit of questionable acting (although the overall acting in the film is miles beyond the horrid acting in “Who Am I?”) – it will certainly keep a viewer locked down to the screen and engulfed in the film.

Jackie’s charm comes through as always, even in this more serious role. Of course, one must speak of the action. Well, most of the fighting is quick (and I do mean quick) fights with thugs who are looking for what they believe Jackie has. They are short and not earth-shattering, but still entertaining fights. It is here that a more traditional Jackie shines through. The most talked-about segment is the longer nude fight scene in the marketplace. Now this is classic Jackie goofiness with some decent fighting thrown in.

Finally, the biggest action segment is in the 3rd part of the film and is pretty much just like the movie “Speed” where Jackie is in a vehicle that can’t slow down without blowing up. It is solid action that keeps you entertained, but does little for the actual plot. It does, though, lead up to a nice final stunt. All in all, this is definitely a worthy Jackie film. Not his best work, but definitely entertaining and a must-see to see the more moody style in a Jackie film. It may even be worth a few viewings to some Jackie fans. It is what “Who Am I?” was trying to be but with much more success.

Klotera’s Rating: 7.5/10

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About JJ Hatfield

Freelance Photo/Journalist Founder and Director of two non - profit humanitarian organizations Writer and film reviewer. I love books, music, the arts and of course films!
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