Tuxedo, The

The Tuxedo (12A)

If any one thing stands out in The Tuxedo it’s British actor Jason Isaacs obvious try-out for the role of James Bond.

The film is actually a vehicle for the lamentable comedy of Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, here teamed with lithe brunette Jennifer Love Hewitt as a secret agent who believes Chan is the super spy who will mentor her on a secret mission.

Yet Chan is a taxi cab driver hired to ferry Isaacs (the real spy) around town. Isaacs’ amazing skills come from his 007-style tuxedo – actually a weapon known as Tactical Uniform Experiment – that Chan climbs into. Suddenly he is transformed from blue-collar immigrant to international man of mystery. He’s not a super spy in a suit, but a spy in a super suit.

With the charming, charismatic and debonair Isaacs off screen thanks to a bomb blast that nearly claims his life, it’s left to Jimmy Chong (Chan) to save the day. Almost.

From that moment on the film misses Isaacs terribly. After all, who can resist a man whose address book contains the names Sondheim and Springsteen under ‘S’?

There is the germ of an idea within The Tuxedo that could work. Unfortunately it is buried beneath Chan’s histrionics and a succession of lame gags that do nothing to lift the film.

We have seen this type of action/comedy before – a nobody finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is transformed into a hero – but this one relies too much on Chan’s established screen persona as geeky, chummy chappy.

Chan cannot and never has been able to act. Mainly his performances come down to a series of cheeky grins, cheeky poses and his martial arts that are, admittedly, considerable.

Yet in The Tuxedo his fighting skills are played down to the extent that he utters ‘Not everybody Chinese is Bruce Lee’, thereby lessening the obvious appeal of a film in which Chan’s every move – high kick or otherwise – is dictated by the tuxedo’s control panel.

Thus the suit allows him to take over at a James Brown concert (don’t ask) when the great man is incapacitated, and kick the bad guys around when the suit works properly.

The anorexic plot – something about a mineral water magnate with a nefarious plan to control the planet’s stocks by poisoning his rivals’ supplies with a secret formula that makes anyone drinking the water shrivel and die from extreme dehydration – is an afterthought, and merely an excuse for lots of tuxedo-clad fights and jokes

Jennifer Love Hewitt appears to enjoy herself as a quasi action heroine but this is decidedly poor stuff. After Heartbreakers she should choose better projects.

Star rating: *

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