Jackie Chan is arguably the most beloved action star of the past 50 years.
Over the course of his prestigious career, he has appeared in more than 150 films, putting his body on the line for death-defying stunts in the likes of Supercop, Police Story, Crime Story, Rumble In The Bronx and the Rush Hour trilogy.
Unfortunately, Ride On will not be remembered as fondly as any of the aforementioned Chan movies. Which is especially frustrating because Ride On actually has a strong premise that should pay the perfect homage to Chan’s history as a stuntman.
In the action drama, Chan plays Lao Luo, a prolific stuntman who has spent the past eight years working alongside his trusted horse Red Hare. Luo picked out Red Hare at birth and saved him from being euthanised after he was born deformed. After suffering a serious injury that left him in a coma, Luo has been on the brink of bankruptcy for years. Debt collectors even try to take Red Hare but Luo fights them off and escapes.
To save Red Hare, Luo seeks the assistance of his estranged daughter Xiao Bao (Liu Haocun) and her boyfriend Naihua (Kevin Guo), who just so happens to be a lawyer. This starts to bring Xiao Bao and Luo closer together. Plus, after his fight with the debt collectors goes viral, Luo also gets more work in the film industry. But after years of punishment, each stunt threatens to be either Luo or Red Hare’s last.
The opening 10 minutes of Ride On suggest it might actually be a fitting swansong for Chan. The 68-year-old performer quarrels with his horse in a light-hearted and heart-warming manner. He then goes toe-to-toe with several adversaries in an action scene that proves how funny and fearless Chan is.
Sure, there are a few low-brow jokes at which you can’t help but roll your eyes. But this only reinforces Chan’s strengths as a performer. It proves that he’s not merely willing to regularly put himself in danger, he’ll also to make himself the butt of a joke.
But it doesn’t take long for Ride On to fall apart. Its writer and director Larry Yang insists on providing way too much backstory for Luo and Xiao Bao. This includes various scenes of the pair not seeing eye-to-eye when she was a child, as well as the death of her mother and the broken promise that she made to her. All of this is set to a grating and mawkish soundtrack that feels as though it belongs on a soap opera.
Ride On’s threadbare plot is almost immediately exposed, too. Rather than having the various storylines bounce off each other so that it builds to a satisfying climax, the film focuses on certain plots for a prolonged period. It also occasionally dovetails into flashbacks that seem forced and overly sentimental, all of which makes the film disjointed.
This is especially torturous because, for some ridiculous reason, Ride On’s running time is 2 hours and 6 minutes. The film could easily stand to lose at least 30 of those minutes, while Yang’s heavy-handed script also clearly needed another polish (or 10) to eradicate its cheesy and obvious dialogue.
There are moments and scenes where Ride On teases the sweet and heartfelt movie that its striving to be. Yang uses old clips of Chan’s stunts from his previous films to show how impressive Luo used to be as a performer, which fans of the actor will undoubtedly be touched by. Chan dishevelled look and tired appearance to show that Luo has spent years putting his body on the line also resonates, too.
But all of this is swamped by a tedious plot, and woeful script and direction, which combines to make Ride On a huge disappointment.