Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Gorgeous: Special Edition (1999)
Studio Line: Columbia TriStar - She wanted adventure. In Hong Kong she found her match.

World-famous action hero Jackie Chan (Rush Hour, Rumble In The Bronx) is the dashing Hong Kong millionaire businessman C.N., who battles his corporate rival Howie by day and wines and dines sexy women by night. C.N. faces his greatest challenge when he meets beautiful young country girl Bu and falls hopelessly in love! New to glamorous Hong Kong from her tiny hometown fishing village, Bu takes on the identity of a notorious gangster's girlfriend to win C.N.'s heart. But when Howie sets a vicious surprise trap for him, C.N. must prepare to fight for his lady, and his life! Fast-paced and filled with both romance and eye-popping stunts, this action film isn't pretty, it's Gorgeous.

Director: Vincent Kok
Cast: Jackie Chan, Qi Shu, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Hsien-Chi Jen, Elaine Jin, Ken Lo, Sung Young Chen, Bradley James Allan
DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9, standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1, Cantonese DD 5.1; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single side - dual layer; 28 chapters; rated PG-13; 99 min.; $24.95; street date 7/11/00.
Supplements: Jackie Chan's Audio Commentary; The Making-Of Featurette; Music Video; Talent Files.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/B/B

Complete honesty time: I've never cared for Jackie Chan. Granted, I haven't seen very many of his films, but the general impression I took from them was that he tried to be all things to all people; bad-ass action hero but also likable goofball. Obviously a lot of people liked this persona, but it never worked for me; I thought the compromise rendered both sides of the equation flawed.

As such, I didn't look forward to Gorgeous, a film of his from 1999. In fact, the only reason I chose to screen the DVD was because it included an audio commentary from Chan himself, and I thought that might be interesting. Unfortunately, that meant I had to sit through the movie itself.

To my surprise, I found Gorgeous to be a tolerable little flick. I didn't say it was "great" or even "good", but "tolerable" and "modestly enjoyable" are about the most I should expect from this kind of picture, so I'm happy with that.

Although it includes some significant action scenes, Gorgeous is mainly a romantic comedy. It shows Chan as C.N., a busy tycoon with no time for women other than as a minor diversion - until he meets Bu (Qi Shu), a girl from a small village who's come to Hong Kong on a whim after she finds a message in a bottle. The story is completely contrived and silly, but it doesn't really matter, as the film moves along at a good enough pace to make the general stupidity less problematic.

This movie is a piffling affair - there's no doubt about that. It's a completely forgettable marriage of romance and action, with the latter aspects grafted onto the plot in a rather gratuitous manner; Jackie's rival/semi-friend wants to humiliate him so he sends a little white dude named Alan to kick his butt; the two fight a couple times, and there's two other scenes where some bumbling henchmen go after Jackie. The action segments are well-executed in the usual hyper and comedic Chan style, and they actually blend fairly well with the movie, but they clearly were added to make the picture more palatable to the typical Chan audience.

I don't know how they felt about Gorgeous, but as someone who doesn't much care for the guy, I thought it was minor but watchable. That doesn't sound like much of an endorsement because it's not; Gorgeous isn't a movie I plan to view again, and I generally didn't think much of it. However, for its 99 minute running time, it kept me mildly entertained, but that's about it.

In regard to that running time, by the way, it appears that a full 22 minutes of the original film were removed for the US version. Why? I have no idea. Not having seen the longer cut, I can't comment on the impact these omissions had, but the movie doesn't seem any worse for wear. 99 minutes feels about right for this kind of film, whereas 121 minutes might be pushing it. I don't support this kind of cutting, and it indeed is entirely possible that the longer version is a superior one, but based on what I saw, the shorter edition works fine on its own.

The DVD:

Gorgeous appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen side was inspected for this review. Although it shows some flaws, Gorgeous generally offers a very fine picture.

Sharpness usually looks pretty crisp and well-defined, though some softness interferes with many of the wide shots. Moiré effects are a periodic nuisance but artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV were minor. The print shows a few mild flaws, such as light grain at times, a little black grit, and some periodic white spots, but for the most part it seemed clean.

Colors were accurate and adequately-saturated; they seemed nicely realistic and displayed no problems. Black levels appeared fairly deep and rich, and shadow detail looked appropriately opaque without any excessive density. All in all, Gorgeous presents fine image.

Also pretty good is the movie's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Actually, two versions of this appear on the DVD: the film's original 5.1 Cantonese edition and a 5.1 English dub. I used the Cantonese for my screening of the film, but I flipped over to the English from time to time. Often I prefer English dubs but not for Asian films; I have yet to find a satisfying dub for one of those movies. Sometimes I think the folks who produce these dubs actually go out of their way to find the absolutely worst voice actors available.

Other than the dialogue, these two tracks appeared largely identical, though not totally. I noticed that the activity level of ambient sounds seemed higher on the English track. For example, check out the market scene that begins in chapter two; the hubbub heard from the side speakers is much greater in the English version. Note that I don't state more noise equals better mix; I won't make a judgment call in that regard here. I simply wanted to point out that while the score and most of the effects seem identical between tracks, some differences exist.

One odd aspect of the English dub involves the dialogue. Although most of the Cantonese version does use that language, a modest amount of speech appears in English. However, even those lines have been dubbed - from English to English! For the most part, this makes sense for the sake of consistency; it would be jarring to hear a change in C.N.'s voice from time to time, and it was already disturbing enough to hear someone else speak for Chan, since his voice is familiar enough to make the dubbing disconcerting. However, that doesn't explain why they dubbed Alan's dialogue; he only speaks in English, so there were no opportunities for his voice to "change". I suppose dubbing the entire project lends added consistency to the quality of the sound - Alan's lines might stand out due to the fact they wouldn't appear dubbed - but it still seemed odd to me.

In regard to the mix itself, Gorgeous provides a reasonably good soundfield, though it appeared a bit less involving than I expected. The forward channels feature a reasonable level of activity, with music and some ambient effects that spread to the sides. I noticed few examples of real directionality, though, with little in the way of panning or motion between speakers. The rears receive even less activity; the mainly add to the ambience through some effects and a fair amount of music. I detected no split surround usage, and the rears really only kick in to a fairly significant degree during some of the action scenes, when they blast the score pretty effectively. The soundfield remains decent and gets the job done, but I expected something a bit more involving.

Sound quality seems solid. Obviously I can't judge the intelligibility of most of the dialogue, though the English lines sounded clear. The speech generally seemed crisp, though it appeared a little thin and flat. Effects were realistic and clean, and the music sounded appropriately strong, with accurate highs and some moderate lows. Frankly, the whole track could have used some stronger bass, but we hear reasonably tight low end. For a recent film, the soundtrack of Gorgeous doesn't seem special, but it works fairly well and rates a solid "B".

The DVD packs in a few good supplements, starting with an audio commentary from Jackie Chan. This track is definitely not "scene specific"; Chan talks about everything under the sun except the actions on screen. That's fine for me; I always thought scene-specific commentaries were over-rated, and Chan provides so much great information that I never would have missed a more film-related discussion. He talks about a number of aspects of his career, like the difficulty he has trying to branch out and the fact his producers won't let his characters die in films. Chan's awkward English was a mild impediment during the track, but I didn't find it to present any real problems, and the quality of the information makes it worthwhile. After all, the guy invites all of us to visit him in his office in Hong Kong - gotta love that! (He also wants us to write to Columbia-Tristar and tell them what you thought of the movie, so get those pencils ready!)

We also get a 30-minute documentary called "The Making of Gorgeous". This is an odd little piece, at least to my American eyes. It was created for the Asian market and comes in Chinese with English subtitles. It differs from the usual US formula, in that we don't learn much about the film itself; the program mainly shows us clips from the movie plus brief interview snippets and footage from the set. Granted, I realize that sounds exactly like the typical American featurette, but this one's different somehow; the cast and crew spend more time discussing love and fate than they do the movie, for God's sake!

The documentary ends with an assortment of Chan outtakes. Oddly, the subtitles disappear during the last three and a half minutes of the program. While this isn't a huge loss, since most of the outtakes aren't verbal in nature, some of the participants do make comments that remain unintelligible to me. Ultimately, I found the documentary to be odd but generally uninteresting; it's fun to see how the other markets approach promotion, but it's not a compelling piece as a whole. (Though I do love to hear any mentions of pirated VCDs - there's something oddly amusing about having that issue broached in a promotional piece.)

We find a music video for the film's "love theme". This clip is a slight variation on the usual film clip/lip-synch combination; the movie scenes dominate the screen, as they fill two inset images on the TV, while a third offers some shots of the performers. The video also appears in its entirety during the documentary.

Finally, the DVD presents a "talent file" for Chan; as it typical of Columbia-Tristar DVDs, this entry provides very little information about the star and is basically a waste of space. Surprisingly, there's no trailer for the film on the DVD, and it also lacks the usual booklet.

Although they don't qualify as extras, since they appear in the original movie itself, I wanted to mention the usual raft of wacky outtakes that appear during the film's closing credits. These are a staple of Chan's pictures, but in this case, they literally lose something in the translation. That's because many of them are verbal flubs. These would probably make no sense to English-speaking viewers in any case, but we aren't allowed the opportunity to decide for ourselves; music plays over the credits and the original speech has been removed.

That seems silly; what harm would come from allowing them to appear with dialogue? They might make no sense, but the current solution is even less logical, since we have no idea what's happening in the speech-less clips. And what's the point of the original Cantonese track if this portion will be altered? I couldn't understand that dialogue either - maybe they should have played music over the entire film and left out any speech entirely. Maybe I'm wrong and the outtakes never had any dialogue apparent, but I would find that exceedingly hard to believe since most of them make no sense in their current incarnations.

Gorgeous won't make anyone who doesn't like Jackie Chan change their opinion, but I thought it was a watchable little piffle. The movie offers nothing special but it kept me mildly entertained. The DVD itself presents pretty good picture and sound plus some nice extras, the best of which was a fun audio commentary from Chan. This DVD is probably best left to serious Chan fans, who might not like the movie - it's pretty different from his usual fare - but will want to have it if just for the audio commentary.

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