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DVD Review: Thunderbolt

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Thunderbolt is a Jackie Chan outing that never quite finds it place. Direction is all over the place, the tone is inconsistent, and Jackie is regularly replaced with an obvious stunt double due to injury. The fights have the typical energy, though little of the charm.

The plot is a mess. While you'll rarely be joining Chan on his latest adventure for a deep message, little is explained here. For whatever reason, Chan is in with the police, yet the connection is never revealed. Apparently the audience is supposed to accept it. The character is developed through his sisters who he will rightfully defend at any cost.

Gordon Chan directs, over-utilizing a slow motion effect that destroys multiple scenes. An important sequence has Jackie Chan's character in a fight for his life as his home is literally ripped from its base and swing around by a giant crane.

It's a technical feat and for the generally low budgets of Hong Kong action films, this is an amazing set piece. Unfortunately, everything is shown at half-speed and blurred on top of it. It never seems to end and becomes boring long before it has a chance to become gripping.

The same can be said for the illogical finale, a race set up so that Chan must win for the enemy to release one of his sisters. Again, this scene never wants to end. A few mega-crashes look incredible on film. For the most part though, the majority is a standard race shot from a few different angles. With the star attraction, you expect to see punches, not pit stops.

Fights disappoint too. As usual, there are a few fantastic concepts. A pachinko parlor rumble serves as the best of the lot, but again, the director uses close-ups, slow motion, and awkward angles to capture it. At times it's impossible to tell who or what you're watching.

Thunderbolt drags all the way through and it finishes in just under two hours. It's a higher level of violence too, featuring some heavy blood during a shootout. It's enough that the MPAA handed out an R, a rarity for a Jackie Chan import. It's a rare miss for one of the best entertainers in the business.

Video quality is stunning. The transfer handles both muted and bright colors without a problem. Compression is well under control, and black levels are perfect. Detail is high and the car race finale is better for it. It's unlikely Thunderbolt looked this sharp during its premiere run in Hong Kong.

The 5.1 mix is always appreciated, though it's sadly only available on the dubbed track. This could be tolerable if the dub was acceptable. Not only are entire sentences changed, people talk when no one was speaking in the original audio track. To continue the audio downswing, the Cantonese language option features no bass at all and the surrounds are silent.

There are no extras, and the menus feature aggravating music. (No stars)

Even when pushing his mid-50s, Chan continues pumping out action epics. Rush Hour 3 is due out in 2007. Another high budget (over $100 million) gives the action star plenty of room to craft some stunning scenes.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
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