With barely any references to Armor of God or its sequel Operation Condor, Chinese Zodiac is more of a pseudo-sequel that can work as a stand-alone adventure. Chan’s character is still motivated by money, which is a funny counter to the Hollywood template of having a character arc end in redemption. Not so for Chan, who will go to great lengths to procure treasures for gold.
The plot is convoluted to a ridiculous degree, hopping around the globe from French mansions guarded by attack dogs to mysterious islands populated by rampaging pirates, culminating in a typically amazing airborne stunt above a volcano.
The movie moves at a blistering pace, and is often nonsensical, but for fans of Jackie who grew up watching films like Project A and Wheels on Meals, it’s a nostalgic blast from the past. The years have had an effect on his physicality, but it’s surprising how nimble the action star still is: managing to hop around environments and utilize props around him to devastating yet comical affect.
The film is lacking in interesting actors unfortunately, populated as it is with wacky useless female characters, but the mass destruction of household furniture, and Jackie rolling down a mountain road with wheels attached to his limbs kind of makes up for it. Okay, it doesn’t really. Half the reason Jackie’s 80/90s output stands the test of time is not just the brilliant action, but Jackie’s chemistry with his co-leads: from Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao to Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin. Chinese Zodiac lacks the human factor, focusing more on epic scope and suffers as a result.
There is more emphasis on dangerous stunts than actual martial arts, and no worthy adversary for Jackie to fight against. The plot moves from one caper to another, only settling on a high-stakes finish towards the end when Jackie has to redeem himself after his thieving ways. It’s not on par with modern martial arts spearheaded by the likes of Donnie Yen. There is a charming quality to Jackie’s antics, however: unconcerned as they are with the violence inherent to martial arts, and more preoccupied with the entertainment born from watching a man slapped around by furniture.