A washed-up stuntman and his stunt horse become an overnight social media sensation when their real-life fight with debt collectors goes viral. (from IMDB.com)
I've been a fan of Jackie Chan ever since I first saw Rush Hour in theaters in 1998. I've since watched some of his Chinese-made films, and I usually don't love the sometimes cheesy tone of the films, or I can't get past the English overdubbed voices. I recently revisited Operation Condor and found it to be a blast, but it still had a bit of that overly silly tone that the Chinese films tend to possess. It's been quite a while since I've seen something new starring Jackie, so when I had the opportunity to review Ride On, I jumped at the chance.
Ride On has a surprising amount of layers to it. It certainly isn't your typical Jackie Chan action film, especially since the famed star is nearly 70 years old in this movie; he's hardly in his prime. Ride On centers around an aging stuntman, named Master Luo, who has raised and befriended a horse in recent years, named Red Hare, and has even trained the animal in the ways of the stuntman. We soon learn that Luo had rescued Red Hare from being put down when it was born for having weak legs. But Luo took the horse under his wing and nursed it to health and, ultimately, great strength. As we meet Luo in this story, he's being approached by a legal team who are contesting Luo's ownership of Red Hare. At the same time, he's trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Xiaobao, who is now in her twenties and studying law with her boyfriend. To complicate things further, it's also in the midst of all of this that he finds a resurgence in work as a stuntman -- specifically with Red Hare by his side.
The tone and mood of Ride On is constantly in flux, as Xiaobao tries to overcome her feelings of abandonment by her father from her childhood, while Master Luo struggles to reignite his glory days as a stuntman. Xiaobao soon quickly becomes attached to Red Hare, and ultimately wants her father to stop putting the horse at risk during his new stunt gigs. At the same time, Xiaobao begins to learn the truth about her father's role in her childhood, and just how much he really did care and love her when she was resenting his absence.
To say there's a lot going on in Ride On may be a bit of an understatement. In true Jackie Chan movie form, there are still some fun fight scenes where Luo has to fight off a group of young street thugs who are trying to collect on debt that Luo owes. A couple of the fights take place in public cafes, so we get to see Chan do what he's always done best and use objects around him to combat his attackers. Honestly, these are the most fun scenes in the movie, and ought to scratch the itch of any Jackie fan hoping to see him in action once again. The drama in the movie works for the most part, too, but the whole thing doesn't quite come together as smoothly as it probably should (or could). In the end, as Xiaobao is looking back on her father's stuntman legacy and finds footage of her father filming his movies -- which are actual, real-life outtakes of Jackie Chan getting hurt while making his films -- the movie turns into an homage to Jackie and a celebration of his film career. Because of this, Ride On almost feels like Jackie's swan song. (But I've heard nothing about that being the case.) The relationship between Red Hare and Luo is also at the heart of the film, with the relationship between Luo and Xiaobao being more of a catalyst for tension and drama. It feels like whoever wrote this movie tried to jam two or three entirely different stories into one, giving us this two-hour film that never quite lives up to what it's trying to be... despite its strong performance from the one and only Jackie Chan.
Ride On is not rated by the MPAA, but if it were, I'd say it would most likely be PG or PG-13, depending on how much the themes of the movie might affect the end rating. There really isn't much objectionable in it, but the two or so scenes where Xiaobao is watching Luo's stunt accident montage is a little intense considering we know that the injuries the young Jackie is sustaining are all 100% real, and the blood we see as a result is also very much really Jackie's. Otherwise, there is no profanity and no sexual content (aside from a suggestive remark from one of the debt collectors that is trying to antagonize Luo by saying he would like to get with Xiaobao).
Ride On is actually almost a family movie. The tone is all over the place, however, with there seeming to be a bit more drama and heaviness thematically than lighthearted and silly or just outright fun. It's also just a bit too long, overall, and I think that does hinder the movie a bit. The music also never really meshes with the movie. It swells and crescendos often, and when it probably should, but it feels a bit too melodramatic and even canned at times. A great score can make or break a movie, and I have to say this one almost hinders Ride On. There aren't a lot of special effects in the movie, but the ones we do see aren't very good, with a couple scenes being just plain bad (like when it's obvious a very dangerous stunt was supposed to be performed and they used CGI and green screen to keep the actors and animals safe). Lastly, I put the English audio track on and the movie automatically provides English subtitles, too. I could have turned them off, but I didn't, and I was super surprised by how often the English dialog did NOT match the English subtitles (sometimes almost dramatically different). I prefer to listen to dialog than read it, so I'd recommend the English audio track over the subtitles (and I think Jackie does his own English overdubs? It was tough to tell at times).
Jackie Chan's latest Chinese film, Ride On, may not be tailor-made for U.S. audiences, but it is a decent outing for Chan at this stage in his career, and a touching tribute to his all-in committment to the sacrificial life of a movie stuntman. Diehard fans of Jackie should check this one out, but more casual fans may want to just ride on by this one.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 10/22/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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