Watch out James Bond, move over Austin Powers, look out Ethan Hunt, and out of the way XXX-- here comes Tong... James Tong. Jackie Chan, having established himself as a Hollywood player with the success of the "Rush Hour" films and "Shanghai Noon", may have the beginnings of a new espionage franchise with "The Tuxedo". Though the martial arts sequences may be a bit tame compared to Chan's more memorable films while the plot could have used some more tinkering, the film's sense of goofy, escapist fun makes "The Tuxedo" a pleasing timewaster.
"The Tuxedo" follows the formula found in the bulk of Chan's filmography, in which a nice guy becomes accidentally caught up in criminal or international intrigue (à la "The Accidental Spy", "Mr. Nice Guy", or "Rumble in the Bronx"). This time around, Chan is Jimmy Tong, a New York cabbie who is hired as the driver of the fabulously rich and incredibly suave Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs, seen recently in "Windtalkers"). However, when a car bomb puts Devlin in the hospital, Jimmy learns that his boss is actually a secret agent for the U.S. government. He also discovers the secret for Devlin's seemingly superhuman abilities-- a $2 billion experimental exoskeleton that looks like a normal tuxedo. At Devlin's request, Jimmy puts on the tuxedo and goes out in search of a 'Walter Strider', who may be able to help.
However, before he can locate Mr. Strider, he is pulled into a field assignment by rookie Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt of "Heartbreakers"). Apparently, bottled water magnate Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster of "15 Minutes"), along with the help of evil scientist Dr. Simms (Peter Stormare, seen recently in "Minority Report"), plans to poison all the fresh water in the world, thereby driving up demand for his own product. Del, who has never met Devlin before, mistakenly believes that Jimmy is her partner for the assignment, and together, they do their best to infiltrate Banning's inner circle and thwart his nefarious plan. Unfortunately, not only is Jimmy completely clueless about the world of espionage, but he also hasn't completely gotten the hang of the tuxedo's physics-defying abilities.
Despite the idiotic plotting, "The Tuxedo" does have its moments, such as Jimmy subbing for 'the hardest working man in show business' James Brown (playing himself) after accidentally knocking him out backstage, a run-in with Banning's flirtatious girlfriend (Mia Cotett of "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion") in a hotel room, and some Buster Keaton-inspired mayhem as Jimmy experiments with the tuxedo's abilities. The fight sequences also offer a different twist on Chan's traditional fighting style, as the tuxedo augments his moves with "Matrix"-style abilities, which are executed with wire-fu and CGI, a move that will definitely irk some Chan purists. In addition to having the requisite athleticism, Chan is charismatic as the 'accidental spy' lacing in both self-confidence and proper etiquette. He also shares some surprising chemistry with Hewitt, who plays a 'water geek' being let loose into the field for the first time.
Yes, the story makes little sense, the action sequences take a detour from Chan's penchant for 'keeping it real', and New York looks embarrassingly a lot like Toronto. But despite these shortcomings, "The Tuxedo" still has an inescapable charm, much like other 'stupid, funny' movies, such as "Zoolander" or the better entries in the "Austin Powers" franchise. Perhaps if a little more work goes into script next time, "The Tuxedo" could be another film series on which Chan could hang his rising star.