If you live anywhere outside of Hong Kong and consider yourself a fan of Jackie Chan, your first introduction to the living legend was probably by way of Rumble in the Bronx (1995). It broke box office records in its homeland but didn't reach international and domestic theaters until 1996, where everyone who didn't go the import route was able to catch of glimpse of the charming, charismatic Chan in action. As far as plots go, Rumble in the Bronx is a lightweight: our hero plays Keung, who's house-sitting for his Uncle Bill's (Bill Tung) Bronx apartment while he's on honeymoon. Having just sold his grocery story to the lovely Elaine (Anita Mui), Bill's got one foot out the door when a local biker gang stirs up trouble: they almost wreck his luxury car and shoplift from the store without batting an eyelash.
Not surprisingly, the good-natured Keung doesn't take their behavior lying down; soon enough, he decimates a few bikers with his formidable hand-to-hand combat skills. Elaine is grateful for the help...but his biggest fan is young Danny (Morgan Lam), who's raised by older sister Nancy (Francoise Yip) until their paths cross when Keung realizes that Nancy is part of the same gang. Naturally, Keung tries to get the beautiful young woman to leave her wicked lifestyle and focus more on raising her little brother right. But eventually, their differences don't matter for two reasons: (1) Keung, Nancy, and the bikers have a common enemy in the White Tiger syndicate thanks to a bag of missing diamonds, and (2) everyone only likes Rumble in the Bronx for the awesome fight scenes.
Jackie Chan has starred in better films than Rumble in the Bronx, but this lightweight and enjoyable romp is a perfect introduction to what makes most of his performances so enjoyable to watch. He often looks outmatched in number or size, but Chan's tremendous gift for stunt work and physical comedy make even the biggest David-and-Goliath brawl feel downright believable. Still, the plot of Rumble in the Bronx occasionally works against it: the end product feels like all five Die Hard films rolled into one, from the "good" good (grounded action at first, a charismatic lead, cat-and-mouse antics) to the "bad" good (a finale and "end boss" more ridiculous than Live Free or Die Hard). Still, there's a certain enjoyment in watching the White Tiger boss get run over by a hovercraft before he finishes his birdie putt...and as long as you end up laughing between the jaw-dropping action scenes, does it really matter why?
Rumble in the Bronx was trimmed by almost 20 minutes for its domestic theatrical release, resulting in a slightly less intelligible plot that, pound for pound, serves up more action (a full list of the cuts can be seen here). Additionally, the music score was changed and extensive dubbing was also added for almost every speaking character, though Chan performed his own English dialogue. That's the version we get on New Line's Blu-ray edition, an essentially barebones disc with excellent A/V quality (including the original aspect ratio and lossless 5.1 audio) that far outshines the aging DVD release. Still, it's priced right, and those who fondly remember their first American introduction to Jackie Chan will appreciate this flawed but fun production in all its butchered domestic glory.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Though it's hardly shot in exotic locales, Rumble in the Bronx looks terrific in this 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer from New Line Entertainment. Textures and color saturation are much improved over the studio's respectable but dated DVD edition, revealing a stable image that allows the action to be seen in much greater detail than before. Black levels and skin tones are also strong from start to finish and, with the exception of a few dimly-lit sequences, this is a consistent presentation with very few instances of dirt, debris, and digital imperfections. This appears to be a single-layered disc...but it barely cracks the 90-minute mark for content (including the bonus features), so no worries.
DISCLAIMER: This images featured in this review are promotional in nature and do not represent the Blu-ray's 1080p source image.
Yes, the post-production English dubbing is a mess...but this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix represents Rumble in the Bronx's theatrical audio and sounds terrific on Blu-ray. Channel separation is very strong at times with a handful of nice background effects, and the sporadic music cues also blend in nicely. It's worth noting that a handful of scenes (including Uncle Bill's wedding) sound much thinner and less defined than others, with some moments that barely escape the front channel. This appears to be a source material issue and has been an issue on past releases. Overall, it's a great sounding mix whose only other oddity is an almost overwhelming amount of bass at times. A lossless Spanish 2.0 dub is also included, as well as English SDH, French, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, and Thai subtitles.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Though predictably low on style points, Warner Bros.' standard menu interface is clean, easy to navigate and loads quickly. Sub-menus have been included for bonus features (only the film's U.S. Theatrical Trailer
(1:30), sadly enough) and audio/subtitle setup, but not chapter selection. This dual-layered, region-free Blu-ray is packaged in a standard keepcase with attractive cover artwork. No inserts or slipcovers are included.
Rumble in the Bronx is still ridiculously entertaining for (mostly) the right reasons, serving up tons of terrific action, hokey but memorable characters, just the right amount of non-story, and a third act that goes completely over the falls in a barrel. Sure, the dubbing is horrible and the original 106-minute Hong Kong cut would've been nice...but this represents the film's US release perfectly and will pack a nostalgic punch for those who enjoyed it in theaters almost 20 years ago. New Line's Blu-ray is a decent effort with a top-notch A/V presentation; the lack of real extras is disappointing, but at least the price is right. But why wasn't this a double feature with Jackie Chan's First Strike, or even a triple feature with Mr. Nice Guy? Still, it's a no-brainer for Chan fans. Firmly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.