More Like Rumble in Post-Apocalyptic New York

New York to Rumble in the Bronx is a surreal wasteland where graffiti soaks into every surface, biker groups smash car windows at night, and diamond thieves shoot up pedestrians during the day. In-between is a bevy of racial stereotyping – much of it from the dubbing – and hokey police work.

No wonder it took a few additional years for Chan to break in mainstream American cinema. The misappropriation of cultures leads to this hackneyed, dystopian depiction of New York – actually Vancouver – which would not be out of place in RoboCop. A tired diamond caper is of no help either. Rumble in the Bronx barely has a narrative reason to exist.

Even Chan is misplaced, mixing and matching kooky family humor, meet cutes, slapstick and the uncomfortable seediness of Chan’s 1985 dud The Protector. Rumble in the Bronx over stuffs itself with blood and cruelty, clashing with the good natured, clever goofiness.

As per usual, Chan’s enthusiasm and bravery are lively highlights.

Of course the American distribution end is of limited help. Scenes are choppy and cut together as if salvaging a broken project. Ten minutes are sliced from the original. Dubbing is comically fast. Expletives feel desperate to give Rumble in the Bronx an edge, but only feel artificial.

Jackie Chan’s stunt work and brawling tactics are all Rumble in the Bronx can offer. As per usual, Chan’s enthusiasm and bravery are lively highlights – his faultless perfectionism can never be tiring. A scrappy melee in a grocery store, a ridiculously great building collapse, gang HQ appliance brawl, and the hoverboat-through-downtown finale are pure bliss. When the film is at Chan’s pace, it’s fine.

Van Damme and Seagal owned American action cinema in the early/mid-’90s. Yet, Chan still bested them both in style and flair. Hong Kong martial arts have grace and clarity to their action. Even the so-so imports like Rumble in the Bronx are a showcase of cinematic ingenuity, certainly more so than say, guilty pleasure Under Siege. These imports do not need bloated budgets or decorative explosions – the behind-the-scenes work and playful choreography is their means of communicating. Yet, the marketing says otherwise, putting a stale picture of Chan in front of New York’s skyline as a super-imposed fireball appears to be rising from the waters behind him. Yeesh. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Chan being Chan @ 1:07:50

Compared to the visual muck of First Strike, Rumble in the Bronx appears pulled from a better source. There are still signs of the image being dated. Reds are unnaturally bright and flesh tones appear drawn on with a crayon. Saturation is uncomfortably high.

Traces of edge enhancement are around too. A few halos show up and grain structure is suspect. Warner’s encoding is at least clean enough to handle the rise without visible compression. Medium shots appear digitally muddy, a remnant of the sharpening process.

Contrast is another concern, brightened to extreme levels. White trucks in the background appear to be glowing and faces can be wiped clean by exterior light. While Rumble in the Bronx has few challenging scenes for black levels, the night club reveals a bit of crush. Some boosting on both ends is the certain cause.

All that aside, Rumble in the Bronx – excusing the Rush Hour series – is among the better Region 1 Jackie Chan discs. The print is free of damage, encoding is excellent, and fine detail is visible. Resolution is firm, representing an acceptable if dated scan of the film elements. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]

And then everything stumbles when it comes to audio. The 5.1 DTS-HD track is an obnoxious monster which overloads the LFE channel with information. Bass becomes inflated, losing tightness and wiping out the other effects. Music will not carry a beat – instead it’s one mushy, droning rumble. When the hovercraft starts up, the subwoofer will fill the room with exaggerated engine sounds, so loudly coarse, any surround or stereo use is barely heard. Rumble in the Bronx should be recalled and fixed.

What can be heard is timid. Originally a Dolby stereo mix, Rumble in the Bronx uses the front soundstage well, while ignoring action in the rears. While New York has a bit of life in exteriors, audio is confined to stereos. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Audio]

A lone bonus is the US trailer. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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