Jackie Chan may have stirred up a maelstrom in the US, but in Asia, he's laughing all the way to the bank.
Last month, the 58-year-old action star claimed in an interview that the US is "the most corrupt" country in the world, and argued that Chinese citizens should keep criticisms of their country to themselves.
"If you talk about corruption, the entire world, the America, has no corruption? [It is] the most corrupt in the world," he said in a Dec. 13 broadcast on Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.
When the comments spread to the American press last week, they sparked widespread controversy.
Yet while the comments aroused indignation in the US, where Chan built his film career, they have done nothing to dent the popularity of his new film, "CZ12" (short for Chinese Zodiac).
Released in China on Dec. 20, the film has broken box-office records in China, earning over $130 million. Strong performances in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have already helped to make "CZ12" the second-highest grossing Chinese-language film of all time.
As director, writer, choreographer, and producer of the film — his 101st — Chan touched every aspect of the project, winning a Guinness World Record for the number of credits on a single film. He has said that "CZ12" will be his last "major action film," marking an end to the most significant chapter in his career.
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In both its subject matter and its Asian success, "CZ12" underscores the extent to which the star of "Rumble in the Bronx" and "Rush Hour" has pivoted his career away from America, and toward China.
The plot of "CZ12," which is nominally the sequel to two Indiana Jones-style Chan movies from the 1980s and early 1990s, follows a markedly more nationalist, even revanchist, arc than its predecessors. Instead of seeking a magic sword, or Nazi gold, as in the previous films, Chan's band of adventurers is on a quest to steal 12 ancient Chinese statues that were taken by Anglo-French forces during the Opium Wars of the 1840s.
Spurred on by a beautiful, didactic Chinese antiques preservation activist named Coco, who periodically delivers speeches on the perfidy of imperialists and the righteousness of repatriating China's historic relics, Jackie eventually sacrifices himself to save a dragon statue from falling into a volcano. (Spoiler alert: He survives.)