Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Jackie Chan, Anita Mui
Director: Jackie Chan
Audio: Dolby Digital 2 Channel Mono
Video: Widescreen 2.351 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Columbia/Tri Star
Features: 4 Trailers, Jackie Chan Talent File, Isolated Music Score
Length: 127 Minutes
Release Date: October 10, 2000
love Jackie Chan movies, and have been a fan for as long as I can remember. His
daring-do stuntwork and sense of timing and physical comedy, for me, comes
second only to my favorite film star, Buster Keaton. And no wonder...Chan has
always credited Keaton as one of his biggest influences.
starting out rather modestly as just another stunt man in the topsy-turvy world
of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, he would evolve into something much more, and
take an entire industry along for the ride. In a genre that was rather rigid and
formulaic (all plots were very similar, usually about the lone warrior wandering
from place to place and finding trouble everywhere), Chan saw much new and
unexplored territory. With Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, he spoofed all the
conventions of the traditional Kung Fu movie--it was bold, funny, yet
problematic...the studios shelved the project, fearing such a marked departure
would be doomed to failure. It would eventually find release on the heels of
instinctively knew comedy could be thrown into the mix for even more
entertainment value. He also knew the fight scenes could be bigger and less
choreographed in appearance. Whereas traditional fighting in Kung Fu movies
meant utilizing a single style throughout and tightly structured movements where
all fighters moved in unity as though being timed by a metronome, Chan began to
develop his style of mixing and matching fighting styles (a terrific example is
the incredible and lengthy fight scene at the climax of The Young Master),
plus the use of reactions to punches rather than simultaneous moves.
And finally, he would throw his signature element into the mix: using anything
and everything available in a scene to fight with. Changes like these initially
horrified the Hong Kong studios, who saw the martial arts picture as something
sacred and reflective upon ancient values and codes of honor and self respect.
And here was one of the industry's brightest, blossoming stars tearing down the
pompous fabric of the art form and re-weaving it into something fresh and new.
Of course, by the time Jackie Chan had earned his place as the world's number
one action star, and had been credited for pretty much single-handedly saving
the Hong Kong movie industry, the studios had to confess that maybe he did
know what he was doing all along.
why all the exposition? Mainly because I know plenty of people who only know of
Jackie Chan through the "Americanized" releases of some of his films
over the years. Titles like Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop, First Strike and
others had been trimmed down, dubbed, and injected with soundtracks of hard rock
and hip-hop music. And my point is, if you've only seen Jackie Chan in this
form, you've never really seen Jackie Chan.
of his best films, sadly, are only available on DVD directly from Hong Kong in
non-region coded discs from Media Asia. A few of these have been available
domestically as pricey imports ($49.95). Now, thankfully, Columbia/Tri Star has
released what I consider to be Jackie Chan's greatest film, Miracles, onto
DVD for the U.S. market. Having owned the Media Asia version for quite some
time, I have to say, I was extremely happy that CST elected NOT to change the
music or dubbing for their presentation, and that their version also constituted
the original 127 minute Hong Kong running time, as opposed to the international
version's length of 122 minutes--not to mention a much more consumer-friendly
price point. More on the comparisons between the versions in the next sections.
(a.k.a. Mr. Canton and Lady Rose) is the most ambitious of Chan's
films, not only as star, but also as writer and director. It blends delightful,
expertly crafted and timed comedy with surprisingly moving and tender moments,
plus plenty of Jackie's famed action and fight sequences and unequalled
stuntwork. As difficult as it seems on paper to successfully pull off such a
blend, to watch Miracles is to know that it can be done, and done well.
In fact, not only do I consider this movie to be Chan's best work, I also think
it ranks as possibly the best picture to come out of Hong Kong!
loosely on Frank Capra's A Pocketful of Miracles (and successfully
capturing the Capra spirit), Miracles is the tale of a down and out
young man named Kau (Chan) in Hong Kong. Having lost almost all of his cash to a
con man, he nevertheless buys a rose from a sweet elderly flower lady, who
assures him it will bring him luck. It might have done just that, because before
he knows what's happened, Kau finds himself mistakenly named the new boss of one
of Hong Kong's biggest crime gangs!
decides to use his newfound power to clean up the organization, turning them
from a criminal outfit into legitimate businessmen, opening up a new nightclub
featuring Luming (Mui) as the star attraction. But another gang constantly wants
in on the business, keeping Kau from being able to put his fists down.
also finds he can use his influence and wealth to help the flower lady in her
time of need. When she learns her daughter is coming home with her fiancÚ and
his wealthy father Ku in tow, she confesses she's never told her child the real
story about her status as a poor street vendor. Once the truth is discovered,
the wedding will probably fall through.
follows is an amazingly funny and moving tale, as Kau tries everything in his
power to create the illusion that Madame Rose is in fact a wealthy socialite.
With Luming's guidance, he fixes her up and provides her with a luxurious hotel
suite and a husband (ironically, the same con man who ripped him off at the
beginning of the picture!). But what begins as a simple good deed grows more and
more complex. The local police inspector, who had been hounding Kau about gang
related activity, wants to meet with Ku about an investment--he could easily
blow the whole scheme! How Kau relentlessly tries to keep the inspector away
becomes one of the film's finest running gags. And that's only the beginning.
haven't even mentioned the action while describing the story...but don't worry,
there's plenty of it! There are multiple fights between the rival gangs, with
Chan doing some of his trademark risk-it-all stuntwork. The climax takes place
in a giant rope factory, and may be one of the finest all-out fighting and prop
scenes he's ever created. The action is fast, furious, hysterical, and jaw
dropping, and indicative of the kind of scenes that only Jackie Chan could
picture is not only a triumph for Jackie as a storyteller and action
coordinator, but is also his finest moment as a director. Most of his credit as
a director has been for his ability to conceive and choreograph amazing action
sequences, and rightly so, but with Miracles, he set out to prove that
he could make a "real" film as well as anybody. He succeeded. The
camerawork in this movie is impeccable, from the gloriously beautiful and
complex tracking shots that infiltrate the nightclub and move around to capture
every aspect, from the construction to the rehearsals to the behind-the-scenes
dealings. On top of that, the way he uses his camera to capture and enhance his
fight scenes was also quite new, and the rope factory climax is where you'll
appreciate it most. But more than just a technical achievement, Miracles proved
that Jackie Chan could work with story and characters as well. He knew how to
get the most out of every scene, and capture its genuine emotion simply and
subtly, without resorting to melodrama.
way you want to look at it, Miracles is a superb film: entertaining,
funny, touching, and peppered with amazing action set pieces. It's a film that
has something that will appeal to just about everybody, and proves Jackie Chan's
creative talents extend far beyond the fighting and stuntwork that have made him
a worldwide name.
TRIVIA: Anita Mui, who later re-teamed with Jackie for Drunken Master II and
Rumble in the Bronx, is one of China's biggest pop stars (think:
Madonna) and does her own singing for the "Rose, Rose" production
off the bat, Columbia/Tri Star's presentation of Miracles offers two
technical improvements over the more expensive Media Asia version: it's dual
layered, and it's anamorphically enhanced. Both transfers seem to have been
struck from the same source material--in comparing the two, I noticed the
occasional bit of debris or scratches occurring in the same spots--but the CST
version suffers no compression artifacts. There is no grain or shimmer inherent
in the picture, and the coloring is much improved, with more natural looking
images and less fading. Red roses look like red roses, not slightly washed out
versions of red roses. There are minor inconsistencies from shot to
shot...again, likely the fault of the souce material. Some scenes feature
terrifically sharp images, others suffer a bit from a little softness and
murkiness. Noticeable, but hardly a distraction. Though a lot of Asian cinema
suffers from lack of proper preservation, CST's technical considerations for
this DVD make this one of the better looking Hong Kong pictures I've seen on
wish I could continue trumpeting the CST version here, but unfortunately, Media
Asia wins this round. Both discs offer choice of Cantonese or Mandarin
soundtracks (neither with dubbing), but that's where the similarity ends. While
the MA version features new and very good 5.1 mixes that uses all channels
effectively and offers plenty of dynamic range and clarity for both music and
spoken words, this CST release uses simple 2-channel mono mixes. Though dialogue
is not really an issue here with a foreign film, I couldn't help but notice a
few places where the spoken words dropped way down in order to bring up the
music, thus keeping the audio at an even clip throughout. This film boasts a
terrific musical score, along with Anita Mui's number, but all of it comes
across much thinner here than I would have liked. The results are still
listenable, but overall, a gigantic step backwards in quality from the previous
issue. In all fairness, the original soundtrack to the film was a mono mix, and
CST's version is probably the more faithful, if less spectacular, of the two.
The ideal version of this movie would feature CST's video transfer and Media
Asia's audio one.
disc contains trailers for this movie, plus Who Am I?, Gen-X Cops and Gorgeous.
Plus, though unbilled, there is also a talent file on Jackie Chan and an
isolated music track. For some reason, the disc defaults with this track on and
no subtitles, so you'll have to do a bit of adjusting prior to starting the
Miracles pretty much lives up to its name: it's a near-miraculous combination of action, drama, comedy with a terrific core story and wonderful characters. Jackie Chan brings all of these seemingly conflicting elements into a seamlessly entertaining and beautiful movie, one that will have you laughing out loud, reaching for your tissues, and marveling time and time again for two hours. Movies don't get much better than this. Though I missed the 5.1 mix of my older version, CST gets the kudos for a better (and anamorphically enhanced) video transfer, plus offering the 5 minute longer Hong Kong version of the film, which is sure to please fans.