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Film Review: Battle Creek Brawl (The Big Brawl) 殺手壕 (1980) - USA / Hong Kong

Andrew Chan Battle Creek Brawl Jackie Chan

Battle Creek Brawl (The Big Brawl) 殺手壕 (1980) - USA / Hong Kong

Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)

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Exactly 40 years ago, a young Jackie Chan fresh off his success in Hong Kong as a local action Kung fu superstar, tried his hand at Hollywood. It would be the second Hollywood feature film after Bruce Lee with an Asian leading man. Directed by Robert Clouse (“Enter the Dragon”) comes “Battle Creek Brawl” also known as “The Big Brawl”. Watching this film again, in light of the Asian Americans representation movements, we see how Chan tries hard in vain to crack the American market at a time when the audience and studios may not be ready yet. The cinematography leaves a lot to be desire and more important the film suffers from poorly staged fight scenes. Sure, it’s always fun to see Chan hop around and skates and doing simple stunts, but with a prime stuntman at his best, it’s clear that all that is gone to waste and a failed attempt to showcase to Hollywood.


Jackie Chan shows a lot of charisma required in order for the audience to sit thru this dire script and slowed down action scenes. Apart from the training scenes and the outdoor theatre fight that resembles anything of the action comedy in Jackie Chan’s style. All other scenes including the overlong finale, are poorly executed in typical 70s and 80s Hollywood fashion. Interestingly, Oscar nominee Makoto Iwamatsu plays Chan’s uncle and master and more than hold his own for the duration. At least, in White Hollywood, Chan gets to kiss the girl and plenty of intimate moments in the interracial relationship with Kristine DeBell. There are also a bunch of famed American stuntman on display including Gene LeBell (the infamous fight with Bruce Lee on the set of “The Green Hornet”), Pat E. Johnson (fought Lee in “Enter the Dragon”), the professional wrestler Hard Boiled Haggerty and Lenny Montana (played the hitman in “Godfather”). We also get to see some rare Asian faces in Rosalind Chao (“Joy Luck Club”) and veteran Tai Chi master Chao-Li Chi as Chan’s father.


All in all, “Battle Creek Brawl” is a difficult film to watch and even after all these years you can understand the struggle that Chan has to deal with, a dumbed down script, awful action that almost completely destroyed Chan’s brand of action comedy. It’s a shame as so much of the martial artists and director Clouse  was somewhat related to Bruce Lee and it took a whole seven years after his death for Hollywood to come up with this disappointment.


I rated it 5/10


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