Ever since Jackie Chan came on the scene in the late 1970s, he has been able to become one of the biggest international stars of all time. From films like The Drunken Master, Police Story, and the Rush Hour series, Chan has been able to entertain audiences for decades. One of the biggest things Jackie Chan is known for is that he performs most of his own stunts. With almost everyone of his action films, Chan brings on his famous Jackie Chan Stunt Team to help him perform the stunts he has become known for.
In honor of Jackie Chan’s recent return to the big screen with The Foreigner, the writers at CineNation picked some of their favorite stunts performed by Jackie Chan and his team.
Who Am I? — 21-Story Skyscraper Slide
By Sean Randall
Remember when Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation was coming out and pretty much every single advertisement for the movie was about how Tom Cruise was a super cool guy who does super cool and dangerous stunts ALL ON HIS OWN like HANGING ONTO AN AIRPLANE OMG.
Yeah, okay, impressive. I mean, I sure as heck wouldn’t do it, but it is not what I would consider the craziest and most dangerous stunt in film. That one I am giving to the 210+ foot slide Jackie Chan took down the side of a skyscraper without a harness…for at least some of it.
In the film Who Am I?, which Jackie Chan co-directed, Jackie plays a Hong Kong military operative named… Jackie Chan… who early in the film has a bout of amnesia caused by an accident, thus being referred to as “Who Am I?” for the rest of the film.
The story’s not exactly the most imaginative thing out there, but the stunt still stands out as one of the ballsiest things ever done, especially by the leading actor in a film.
When escaping the villains, Jackie jumps down the side of the Willemswerf building in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The building looks to have a giant diagonal area that goes down at about a 45-degree angle for 21 stories, becoming narrower toward the bottom. Which Jackie slid down without a harness. And not just once.
If you notice, there are two jumps. The first time, Jackie jumps and lands on his feet pretty far down into the slide. Then the film cuts to a different angle, and you can see Jackie jumping from the top again, this time landing on his butt. With no harness, by the time he hits the narrow ledge at the end, he’s going pretty darn fast. So that’s a lot of force. Enough force that he actually injured his ankle, possibly fracturing the malleolus bone (those bony bits that poke out just at the top). As someone that has fractured that before, I can guarantee you, that is NOT a fun injury. And yet, Jackie just kept on trucking. And, again, did this jump more than once.
Easily one of the most impressive stunts in cinematic history, as well as one of the craziest ones to do without any safety gear. Jackie Chan will always be the actor who is king of the stunt. Sorry not sorry, Tom.
Police Story — Mall Mayhem
In his own words: Jackie Chan would die for cinema. For Police Story the action-legend used his own money, his own car, and his own house. After each day wrapped, he’d hit the hay amidst lighting rigs and set design. For This legendary, record-breaking, action-comedy cost just shy of $2 Million USD to produce and took home Hong Kong Film Award’s 1986 Best Picture and Best Action Choreography statuettes.
Hoping to change the action style he had turned into verifiable trope, half-Buster Keaton half-Clint Eastwood, (Hong Kong had taken on their own knock-off Drunken martial art attempts) Chan aimed to raise the stakes higher than Hong Kong or Hollywood had dared. The stunt team of Police Story peppers the film with fearless talent. Their blood and bravery, and Chan’s ingenuity, build up into a crime-fable that won’t ever be replicated quite the same.
Chan asked his screenwriter to structure the script around locations and props. Even its exposition plays out with slapstick grace, notable in the scene where Ka-Kui Chan fields the entire police departments calls, juggling landlines and pencils to simultaneously manage calls across for the entire office.
This is Ka-Kui Chan as working class warrior, and Jackie Chan as star, director, and stunt-crew-leader, making explosive action with a fraction of what Police Story’s American counterpart would have cost. No rehearsal. Just choreography, stunt engineering, and creative improvisation as the objects react. There’s not any making-of or accessory camera unit either. The credit outtakes are give us tailends and B-Roll, aftermath of each sequence’s carnage, but there were no cameras to spare, with set-ups taking up to 15 to ensure coverage. As Chan tells it, when asked if he’s broken everything yet: “Every bone in my body? No. Every inch of my skin? Yes.”
For the sequence where Ka-Kui hooks onto a bus by an umbrella, the production didn’t hire a stunt driver, just the company’s regular driver. If something went wrong, retold Chan at TIFF 2013, he’d have become pizza. When production calls go out to recruit new stunt talent, the conversation goes “Jackie Chan movie? No, we’re busy.”
The final sequence is a landmark for action-movie history. It took a week to plan, 700lbs of sugar glass, and 300 extras. Storefronts are obliterated, a motorcycle crushed gangsters, and Ka-Kui fights through an onslaught of Hong Kong thugs to nab back the evidence that he’s been pinned for their murder. For it’s climactic stunt, 5 in the morning on the day of the shoot, rain meets the crew at Wing On Plaza.
Ka-Kui gets no running start. He’s standing on a round bar, at the edge of the mall’s top floor. Jackie’s head nod was meant to signal start rolling, but building up the nerve to jump, he looks to the sky, and fifteen cameras start humming with spooling reels. He’s not ready yet, but when he hears this he yells and takes the leap.
Police Story 4: First Strike, Jackie Chan’s First Strike
Jackie Chan’s First Strike was the movie where Jackie Chan officially became James Bond. Well, a clumsier version of James Bond who doesn’t go looking for trouble but just seems to wind up finding it at every turn.
Not only does Jackie get some Bond-ish type gadgetry later on in the movie, but in the very first act he finds himself skiing down a dangerous slope while being chased by bad guys in the Ukraine that is reminiscent of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Unlike Bond who is always well-equipped and properly clothed for such chases, Jackie has only the shirt on his back, quite literally in this case. Oh, and he’s also wearing a cute white seal hat that stays with him right up until the end.
After procuring a briefcase that has evidence of a stolen nuclear warhead, Jackie finds himself clumsily half snowboarding — half rolling down the mountain as he’s being chased by white-clad mercenaries on skis with machine guns.
When he finally comes to the cliff’s edge at the end of the slope, Jackie does the thing any sane person would do and jumps off the ledge which sends him soaring through the air until he manages to grapple onto the helicopter’s landing skids. Jackie thinks he’s safe until a rival helicopter arrives and shoots a missile straight at the copter that he’s precariously dangling from. Just before the missile hits, Jackie lets go and plunges hundreds of feet into the icy lake below.
Jackie Chan movies are awesome because Chan is such a perfectionist that he always insists on doing his own stunts himself, crazy as they almost always are. This makes the action sequences feel authentic since you can tell that there are almost always no stunt doubles doubling for Chan.
Not only was the stunt of jumping onto the helicopter in and of itself impressive, but Chan almost died of hypothermia from the plunge into the icy cold water. Go figure.
While the snowboarding jump may not be Chan’s flashiest stunt, there was plenty of risk involved with it to easily make it one of his best. It also helps that First Strike has one of the best hand to hand action sequences involving the iconic ‘ladder’ which makes First Strike all the more memorable.
It’s every little kid’s dream to go skiing off a cliff to collide with a helicopter as you hold on for dear life. That’s what makes Chan’s movies so fun, they’re wish fulfillment without almost having to kill yourself.