Director: Leo Zhang
Cast: Jackie Chan, Show Lo, Ouyang Nana
Rating: 1.5 stars
For the longest time, it’s hard to figure out where Bleeding Steel is heading or even what it’s about — and I don’t mean this in a complimentary way. You get iridescent visuals of fancy gadgetry in scenes that seem to bear no real coherence. There’s officer Lin (Jackie Chan) who’s torn between his duty, and his dying daughter. A bunch of mercenaries led by a strange-looking villain — the sort of guy you’d likely get if you mixed Voldemort with Ronan the Accuser — go medieval on Lin and his troops. Who are these people? What’re they after? What’s going on? Suddenly, the scene of action shifts to Sydney from Hong Kong.
A transvestite dupes some security folk and is in the process of getting something important, when a latex suit lady with a cape storms in with blasters. Meanwhile, Lin is there too, but masked for some reason. WHAT IS GOING ON? And now suddenly, there’s a hacker boy, and almost immediately, there’s a pretty cool-looking aircraft in which Ronan Voldemort — that’s what I’ll be calling him henceforth — is angrily bellowing some orders. Before you can make sense of it all, you get a girl with memory issues, and a happy-go-lucky fellow who’s stalking her. It’s all a mad blur, and around this time, you resign to passively experiencing whatever director Leo Zhang’s fanciful mind throws up on screen. I mean, it’s the sort of film in which a hacker’s computer says, “Hacking… completed.”
The contrived dialogues also don’t help matters. Sitting in his sophisticated aircraft, Ronan Voldemort looks at no one in particular and says, “For 13 years, you have made me suffer. I’ll make you pay!” After learning that his latex-clad assistant has failed, he looks annoyed. He takes a pause, and when you expect him to come up with something deep, he says, “Don’t let me down again.” In a film like Bleeding Steel which is but a mediocre hodge-podge of some familiar sci-fi tropes, the least you expect is some smart dialogues. It’s the sort of film you’ll likely enjoy, after you take the journey from curiosity to annoyance to resignation to amusement.
Given that Jackie Chan has made a career out of his trademark goofy stunt sequences, I’ve sometimes wondered if all the popularity over his stunt choreography is perhaps a bane that has caused his very competent emotional acting to be under-utilised. A film like Bleeding Steel though needed more of the Chan-fights. There’s one decent sequence atop the Opera House, and an even better one on a stage as he, typically, uses the props around him to great effect.
There’s also some effort put into tapping into his emotional range with the father-daughter angle, but it all rings cursory. Perhaps one scene towards the end best mirrors what Bleeding Steel attempts to be, but what it ends up being. It’s a scene that has Lin being rescued from the sea, but in the close-ups, it’s extraordinarily evident that it’s shot indoors, most likely in a swimming pool. Imagine trying to make an ambitious sci-fi film, and then realising you are having trouble with the fundamentals.