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JACKIE’S ’90s CULT FANDOM

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the mid-1990s Jackie Chan was trying to expand his stardom into America. He was a first-rank movie star all around the world but in the United States his fanbase was, it’s fair to say, on a ‘cult’ level, meaning the fans he had were crazy about him but, relatively speaking, they were small in number.

 

Blame U.S. moviegoers’ aversion to foreign films with subtitles or just the notion that martial-arts movies were a sub-genre, but Chan’s best flicks (‘Police Story 3: Supercop,’ ‘Armour of God II: Operation Condor,’ ‘Drunken Master 2,’ released in the United States as ‘The Legend of Drunken Master’) just didn’t cross over like they should have.

 

So, in January 1996, Chan brought to the Sundance Film Festival a picture called ‘Rumble in the Bronx,’ which he hoped would do the trick. Thanks to the Sundance premiere and the big ad campaign that followed it became his biggest success thus far in U.S. theaters and a reissue of ‘Supercop’ did even better. But it was still on the ‘cult’ level. Eventually that would change when in 1988 he teamed with Chris Tucker for ‘Rush Hour,’ Chan’s first U.S. blockbuster.

 

But at Sundance three years earlier something unexpected happened with ‘Rumble in the Bronx,’ which was scheduled for a midnight screening in Park City. This column tells that story. And next week, in anticipation of Chan’s latest movie landing on Blu-ray and DVD here in the States, a 1996 interview with Chan will be in this space. The column below was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 28, 1996, under the headline: ‘And the winner at Sundance Film Festival is … Jackie Chan.’ (Note the comment at the end about the commercialization of Sundance, which now seems hopelessly naive.)

 

The two most highly anticipated events of the Sundance Film Festival both occurred Saturday. Awards were handed out to the best of the fest, measured both by audiences and jurors — and Jackie Chan came to town.

 

And if you think it's frivolous to suggest that the arrival of the martial-arts comedy superstar is on a par with the independent-competition prizes, you weren't there to see Chan receive what no other celebrity at a Sundance festival has ever received — a rousing standing ovation before his film was shown!

 

        

 

Of course, all of these are low-budget, independent productions, the primary emphasis of the Sundance Film Festival. But a more commercial effort took over early Saturday morning — 12:30 a.m. to be precise — as the overflow crowd in the Egyptian Theater prepared for Jackie Chan's "Rumble in the Bronx.”

 

There was an undeniable electricity in the air as Sundance program director Geoffrey Gilmore, who is normally quite unflappable, excitedly introduced Chan — who was inexplicably clad in a white jacket. (He was apparently not informed that Sundance movers and shakers wear all-black clothing, leather being optional.)

 

Forget Robert Redford and Al Pacino. As audience members leaped to their feet, applauding and screaming, this was Chan's moment, and he humbly acknowledged it.

 

Then he held out a wallet, which he said had been left in the women's rest room, and asked if the owner was in the audience. An embarrassed young woman ran down to the stage to retrieve it, and got a kiss from Chan in the bargain.

 

 

 

The party atmosphere continued during the film and fans were quite disappointed that Chan wasn't there afterward for a question-and-answer session. Then again, it was after 2 a.m.

 

Movie distribution deals for the independents were being struck right and left during the festival's final days, including a record (for a Sundance-based negotiation) $10 million by Castle Rock for "Care of the Spitfire Grill.”

 

Advertising gimmicks also became more prevalent as the festival wound down. People all over town were wearing "Jackie Chan" baseball caps and holding spring water bottles with Gap labels.

 

But whether anyone was wearing the freebie from Absolut vodka is a private matter — long johns with the phrase "Absolut Welcome" on the back.