A few years ago, as he was nearing his 60th birthday, Jackie Chan talked about slowing down — taking some serious roles and doing fewer stunts in his action movies.
The man who was once considered the world’s biggest movie star is back in action mode this week in “The Foreigner,” playing a businessman who wants answers when his daughter is killed in a London terror attack — and wages a one-man war against the British official (Pierce Brosnan) who may be implicated.
And while Chan still has his moments — like his brief appearance in “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” — the action star’s heyday was in the ’80s and ’90s, most of it in Hong Kong before Hollywood figured out what to do with him. Here, in chronological order, are seven golden films that show Chan at his fast-and-furious best:
‘The Big Brawl’ (1980)
After he established himself as a star in Asia throughout the ’70s, Hong Kong producers tried to export Chan to Hollywood, with lackluster results. In “The Big Brawl” (also known as “Battle Creek Brawl”), he plays a student visiting Depression-era America who gets caught up in a no-holds-barred strongman boxing competition. Watching Chan take down burly guys twice his size is entertaining, but writer-director Robert Clouse never gives him the room to really show his stuff.
‘Project A’ (1983)
Chan shows off his comic side in this adventure, co-starring with Sammo Hung and Baio Yuen as 19th-century Hong Kong coast guardsmen facing off with pirates and their well-bribed government lackeys. Chan directed the movie (with Hung directing the action scenes), which employs slapstick comedy in the kung fu fighting. A student of silent comedians, he even imitates Harold Lloyd’s famous hanging-off-the-clock stunt.
‘Police Story’ (1985)
Chan directed this modern cop thriller, playing a detective leading an elite squad trying to break up a massive drug ring that has its fingers in the police hierarchy, too. The stuntwork here is among his best, from a double-decker bus chase to a ferocious fight sequence in a shopping mall.
‘Armour of God’ (1986)
Chan does his version of Indiana Jones as “Asian Hawk,” a gum-chewing treasure hunter who travels the globe seeking out rare objects. Jackie and a buddy (Alan Tam) team up with a count’s daughter (Lola Forner) to infiltrate a cult’s Yugoslavia monastery, retrieve a magic suit of armor and rescue the buddy’s girlfriend (Rosamund Kwan). This one nearly killed Chan, who cracked his skull when he jumped to a tree branch that broke and sent him falling to the ground.
The third movie in the “Police Story” franchise has Chan’s Hong Kong policeman teaming up with a Chinese Interpol officer (Michelle Yeoh) to take down an international drug cartel. The capper is a 20-minute chase/fight involving trains, trucks, motorcycles and Chan hanging off a helicopter’s rope ladder over Kuala Lumpur.
‘Drunken Master II’ (1994)
The first “Drunken Master” (1978) made Chan a star in Asia, and this reboot (released in the U.S. as “The Legend of Drunken Master”) has him reprising his role as Hong Kong folk hero Wong Fei-hung. Wong’s specialty is “drunken boxing” — so called because he flops about as if drunk, and because booze has the same effect on his fighting skills that spinach has on Popeye. The fight sequences here are the best in Chan’s repertoire.
‘Rumble in the Bronx’ (1996)
Chan finally broke through into America with this action extravaganza, playing a Hong Kong cop in New York (OK, Vancouver, but who’s checking?) who gets caught up in a biker-gang war. Chan choreographs some great fights, using a vast array of household objects, and ends with a chase sequence that has him waterskiing off a hovercraft.