Long Ma Jing Shen aka Ride On is ostensibly a semi-comedic movie about a stuntman fallen on hard times and his horse called Red Hare. That’s what the trailers would certainly have you believe, highlighting the comedic aspects of the movie and putting Red Hare front and centre as the main attraction.
But that’s not entirely an accurate representation of the plot. In fact the other main part of the plot focuses on our main character, Master Luo (Jackie Chan), attempting to mend his relationship with his daughter Bao (Haocun Liu – Cliff Walkers, One Second). In fact, there’s a real undercurrent of melancholy that runs throughout the entire story, helped perhaps unintentionally by our main character.
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Following an on-set accident nearly a year prior, Master Luo has fallen on hard times. Stunt work has dried up, he’s reduced to busking in the street to try and pay his bills, and he’s got a gang of debt collectors who want their money back or else!
On top of that, some suits have shown up at his doorstep claiming that the horse he raised from a foal is actually the property of the movie studio and they’ll be taking him back as part of legal action. What follows is a story of a man trying to stay true to the things he believes while trying to mend his relationship with the daughter he’s not seen since his wife died, sprinkled with slapstick horse comedy and the occasional fight scene.
I’ve been a fan of Jackie Chan since I first rented Armour of God on VHS back in the mid 1980s and I’ve remained an avid watcher of his films ever since. But with Ride On, there’s no escaping the fact that Jackie Chan… got old. A fact that, intentionally or not, adds another level of pathos to his portrayal of an ageing stuntman trying to recapture his glory days.
There’s even a scene in the film where Luo and Bao watch a montage of all the ways that Chan has been seriously injured or nearly killed performing the stunts in his films, a reminder of what an amazing actor and stuntman he has been all through his career. But the simple truth is that Ride On shows that time waits for no man. Not even Jackie Chan.
A fact highlighted by a couple of decidedly clunky moments that are likely to leave viewers scratching their heads over why the director thought this was going to be okay or look good. The worst is probably the scene where Luo is supposed to jump down from a second storey building.
To disguise the fact that this is, obviously, not going to be done by the nearly 70 year old Chan, they decide to apply an egregious amount of motion blur to his face to disguise that it’s a stunt double. It’s really obvious and jarring and surely there could have been better ways to handle that?
There are also all the more usual ways of disguising when an actor isn’t doing a particular movement or scene, the camera cutting away and back again, not focusing on his face etc, which make the fight scenes just a little bit sad to watch, hammering home that Chan just isn’t capable of the same level of physicality any more.
Chan remains an amazing actor, his face as full of personality and emotion as it ever has been, able to sell this story about one man and his equine “son” with absolute sincerity. But as he himself says in the film, “Jumping down is easy. Stepping down is hard.” Maybe it’s time for Jackie Chan to step down.