Hidden Strike Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Jackie Chan returns to the action-comedy genre, with this less-than-mediocre story, showcasing ludicrous action. It holds no entertaining value!
Genre: Action / Comedy
Director: Scott Waugh
Cast: Jackie Chan, John Cena, Pilou Asbæk, Chunrui Ma, Amadeus Serafini, Hany Adel, Tim Man, Minghao Hou & Wenli Jiang.
Run Time: 102 min.
US Release: 28 July 2023 (Netflix)
UK Release: 28 July 2023 (Netflix)
German Release: 28 July 2023 (Netflix)
Another week, another Netflix release… or should I say two?!? During our long weekend’s short drive to Austria and back, I found this surprising action feature, starring Jackie Chan. Never having heard of it before, I did a quick Google search to get an overall grasp of what this action-comedy is about, especially since I am a huge Jackie Chan fan. Unfortunately, I obtained what I feared; a dull-written, lazily filmed combat feature, with flat jokes and even worse dialogue. So let’s get on with another negative review for another tedious streaming production.
Two ex-special forces soldiers need to team up, to rescue civilians working for a Chinese-owned oil refinery in Iraq. Their mission will lead them through Baghdad’s infamous “Highway of Death”, as they escort the employees to the safety of the Green Zone.
To my utter surprise, I found out that Hidden Strike, also known as Project X-Traction in other countries, was filmed in 2018 then shelved until managing to secure a limited release date. Part of that was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it also seems like the production companies had doubts about whether to release the movie in general. The reasons are clear: This is a horrific action picture that lacks any suspense!
The screenplay, written by Arash Amel, is clearly a haphazardous attempt at cashing in on nostalgia, aiming for the Chinese box office market as its target audience. The narrative includes cheap, meaningless material, a lacklustre father-daughter side story that feels forced, unearned resolutions, as well as no character development whatsoever. The tone is completely uneven, starting off as dead-serious, then abruptly shifting to a more light-hearted atmosphere, once the two leads meet.
Unfortunately, the humour did not work at all. It includes childish comedy that doesn’t stick the landing, making for rather embarrassing moments. The plot is incredibly shallow, making the few exposition-heavy segments dispensable. The drama feels far-fetched plus artificial, making the different blending genres incompatible. What could have been a new concept, similar to Rush Hour or Shang High Noon, is nothing more than wasted potential.
The dialogue is plumb, making use of a lot of jokes that fail. Conversations try to create periods of vulnerability, though fail due to the cheesiness of the line delivery. The personal struggles seem insincere, due to what is said before or after.
This leads us to the acting because, although silly, it is the only aspect that is worth talking about, especially due to the charisma of both leads.
Jackie Chan plays as always the likeable hero! Starting off in a dark place, hinting at a tumultuous backstory, that side arc is quickly pushed aside, making space for Chan’s more lighthearted comedy. While his jests did not always work, his physical acting does make up for a lot of it. Yes, it is visible that he aged but he is still incredibly agile. His back-and-forth with actress Chunrui Ma, who portrays his daughter, Mei, did not sell their relationship.
Contrary, his chemistry with John Cena was quite exceptional. The two had obvious fun at shooting a schlocky action flick, especially if you witness the outtakes. Cena gives a rendition of a somewhat dimwitted American mercenary. Just as with Chan, his dialogue was not the best, however, his physical performance was quite fun. Cena used wrestling moves to sell his physical work, though, not a lot looks physically realistic.
Pilou Asbæk rounds off the main cast, as the antagonist Owen Paddock, a one-dimensional character, without any sort of exploration. Asbæk gives an over-the-top performance, sounding more brainless than menacing.
The cinematography is among the most infuriating aspects of the picture. Director Scott Waugh plus cinematographer Tony Cheung right out stole framing, composition, as well as the colour palette of Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Even the promotional posters use the same hues as the 2015’s post-apocalyptic high-octane action blockbusters. Nonetheless, where Miller succeeded, Waugh failed, as the camerawork makes questionable decisions, while the editing chops up the action scenes.
The imagery is dragged further through the dirt, as grotesque computer imagery is implemented as the main scenery, distracting from the narrative. Locations in China have been used as Middle East stand-ins, with terrible CG overlapping them. Explosions, gunfire, just like blood all look like in-game textures.
The score, composed by Nathan Furst who co-worked several times with the director, is over-blown, chaotic and at times too dramatic, overwhelming the overall flick.
Verdict: The new action film, starring Jackie Chan and John Cena, is a real letdown. The script, written by Amel, is an obvious attempt at making a quick buck, without putting in the necessary effort. The material is lacklustre, while the side plot obtains an unmerited resolution. The dialogues are flimsy, including a ton of unfunny one-liners. The only positive thing in this premise is Chan plus Cena, who obviously have the time of their lives in front of the camera. That said, it is obvious that the Hong Kong actor has aged, with physical stunts being more difficult to pull off. The cinematography is messy, and the effects right out infuriating, as it tries to copy the imagery of Fury Road. In the end, Hidden Strike (or Project X-Traction, depending on where you are from) is nothing more than a forgettable, lazy concept, which wasted the potential of Jackie Chan and - possibly - John Cena. It’s Netflix trash deserving no more than a 3.5 out of 10.
Who of you has already seen this new Netflix premise? Sadly, I can’t recommend this one to anyone, even if meant as a simple quick mental getaway. Thank you for reading! If you want to give your opinion, go on & comment below!