Funny action-man Jackie Chan ably dives headfirst into gritty gangster drama

By Irfan Shariff

International action film star Jackie Chan wants to prove that he can do more than just stunts. With the release of “Shinjuku Incident,” Jackie Chan proves he has a dark side.

From acclaimed Hong Kong director Derek Yee, “Shinjuku Incident” takes Chan’s character, Nick (a.k.a. Steelhead), and smuggles him out of China into a life of crime in Tokyo. Although, Steelhead tries to lead an honest life, strange twists of fate lead him back to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

Yee explains that he first had the idea for the film in the late 1990s when he heard news reports of illegal Chinese immigrants arriving in Japan. As he researched the idea, he became fascinated with migrant communities and their growth.

“I wanted to present a … viewpoint of life within these communities. It’s not a real story, of course, but an adaptation of what my research revealed,” said Yee.

Jackie Chan as Steelhead in "Shinjuku Incident"

Steelhead’s journey begins when he lands on the Japanese coast in search of his girlfriend, who left after promising to return to China someday. He is taken in by Jie (Daniel Wu) and his group of petty thieves, all of whom are illegal Chinese migrants.

These early days are all about surviving for Steelhead. He mixes small crime jobs with undocumented work in restaurants or picking trash — which according to one character is something the Japanese wouldn’t do.

A series of fateful events in which he saves the lives of a police officer, a yakuza boss, and a beautiful woman that runs a hostess bar, Lily (Fan Bingbing), bring him security, fortune, and love.

With Lily, he is able to start a new life, despite being tied to the yakuza.

“Shinjuku Incident” is a good study of clashing cultures and mob mentality. When Steelhead saved the yakuza boss’s life, he was given a piece of the Shinjuku neighborhood to oversee, and his friends profited with him. While Steelhead tried to keep away from the life of crime associated with his position, his friends engrossed themselves into it.

As the power of the Chinese gang and the internal mutinies within the yakuza grow, the film reaches its thrilling climax and bittersweet ending.

Rated R in the U.S. for graphic violence, sexuality, and drug use, the film was banned in China because it was not suited for all audiences. Movies in China are released without a rating system. “Shinjuku Incident” was released in other Asian markets in Spring 2009.

According to the Associated Press, Yee considered cutting the violent scenes, but felt it “would hurt the integrity of the movie.”

Chan, who announced plans for a 100th movie this January, proves he has many talents in “Shinjuku Incident.”

The dark film, complete with graphic action sequences, brings Chan into the realm of the gangster thriller genre. Eerily similar to Al Pacino’s Scarface, Chan’s Steelhead is a tragic hero, but he has a heart of gold. (end)

“Shinjuku Incident” opens Friday, Feb. 5 at AMC Factoria 8, AMC Alderwood 16, and AMC Oak Tree 6. For show times or to buy tickets, visit

Irfan Shariff can be reached at

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