Chinese zodiac signs have always been intriguing and 'CZ12' has been no different. Simply because it is rumoured to be Jackie Chan's final bow as an actor. Secondly, because Jackie Chan picked up two Guinness World Records for his work on the movie - for most credits in one movie, together with most stunts performed by a living actor for his body of work.
This film is a pseudo-reboot of a film franchise that began with "Armour of God" and its sequel, "Armour of God II: Operation Condor".
The movie begins with a brief historical prologue, narrated by Jiang Wen. It was during the Opium War, the British forces invaded China in 1860. They stole a number of prized Chinese antiquities, including the heads of statues of the Dog, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Ram, Rat, Rooster, Snake, and Tiger from Beijing's Summer Palace. These 12 bronze busts represent the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. They have long been thought lost, until they begin popping up in auction houses around the world and fetching millions of dollars each time.
A high-profile antique dealer (Oliver Platt) calls on JC (Jackie Chan), an antique thief, to retrieve the remaining missing heads. JC and his all-Chinese team rope in Paris-based Coco (Yao Xingtong), an activist working for an NGO dedicated to repatriating national treasures, to seek out the bronze heads. So far, so good. It is when the first robbery ends up with JC and team being caught that 'CZ12' becomes a jumbled mess.
Katherine (Laura Weissbecker), a bankrupt great-great-grand daughter of a French aristocrat, appears from out of the blue and bails the team out.
From this point on, the film starts losing ground. With a series of misadventures, this unlikely collection of international art thieves, bumbling aristocrats and indignant Chinese Heritage spokespersons travel to a remote island in search of the remaining heads. There, they encounter pirates, hidden gold, and endless in-fighting as the eventual fate of the treasure remains in the balance. What is worse is that characters from different nationalities speak in their mother tongue, making it difficult to comprehend and thereafter, the film stops making any sense.
A treasure hunt film, 'CZ12' may have action, comedy, stunts, beautiful damsels and sophisticated gadgets galore that could put the latest James Bond movie "Skyfall" to shame. But what it lacks is the soul in its story.
It is not the film's message that is bothersome, after all it is hard to argue against retrieving plundered national treasures to their rightful owners. But it is the clumsy, provocative manner in which the film handles it, that is likely to irritate audiences and bore them. Also with original scenes and sequences few and far between, it is like seeing a montage of all best scenes and sequences of Jackie Chan's earlier movies and other memorable films.
'CZ12' is shot through with such a hypocritical air of arrogant self-importance that it is difficult to focus on the actual message.
At the crux of all this is Jackie Chan, whose popularity has been steadily declining over the past decade or so, despite his desperate efforts to be taken seriously. As actor, writer, director, producer, cinematographer, composer, stunt co-ordinator and, most bizarrely, catering co-ordinator, to name just some of his roles, there is no getting around the fact that the film is something of a vanity project for Jackie Chan.
The problem is, at 58 years of age, he is well past his prime and simply not capable of taking on everything that he used to, whether that be his once-impressive stunt work or other, simpler duties.
The direction is lacklustre, rambling and tonally inconsistent. While onscreen, Jackie Chan does what he has always done and his performance here is easily his strongest contribution to the film. However, despite appearing as the same affable clown that has won him legions of fans over the past 30 years, his writing is what sinks the project beyond any hope of recovery.
Probably, even Jackie Chan's fans would be disappointed with this one.
Critic: Troy Ribeiro
(2 / 5) : Average