Chan returns to Chinese film with gang thriller

'Shinjuku' deemed too violent for cinemas in China

HONG KONG -- Jackie Chan is known for playing the lovable, comical action hero, but the "Rush Hour" star takes on an unusually dark role as a desperate Chinese immigrant who becomes a hit man for a Japanese gangster in his return to Chinese-language film.

The 54-year-old Hong Kong native said Wednesday he's trying to prove with "Shinjuku Incident" that he's a genuine actor with a broad repertoire.

"I hope to play good guys, bad guys, minor roles, major roles, ghosts and gods — I want to play everything," Chan said in an interview. "I hope to become Asia's Al Pacino or Robert De Niro."

In the movie, his first Chinese film since the 2006 comedy "Rob-B-Hood," Chan plays a Chinese tractor repairman who smuggles himself to Tokyo to look for his girlfriend and ends up working for the Japanese yakuza, or gangsters.

Chan said it was tough shedding his flashy kung fu moves and cheeky grins for his new movie.

"The director would tell me, 'your laugh is too cute,' or in a fight scene, 'you can't move too dramatically," Chan said.

The director asked him to move as if he didn't know kung fu: "Wow, it was so difficult."

"Shinjuku Incident" is also a risky choice for the veteran actor, who, according to director Derek Yee, paid for about half of the movie's $25 million budget.

Chan's role as an illegal Chinese immigrant who works for Japanese mobsters could offend nationalistic Chinese still upset with Japan over atrocities committed by its soldiers during World War II.

Yee told the AP earlier he has decided not to release the film in China because he didn't want to tone down its graphic violence. China doesn't have a ratings system, so every movie has to be edited for audiences of all ages.

Violence aside, it is unclear if the movie could have passed Chinese censors given the sensitivity of the question of a Chinese man working for Japanese crime lords.

Chinese censors asked Oscar winner Ang Lee to edit his 2006 spy thriller "Lust, Caution," so it was more ambiguous on the question of whether a student activist gave away the plot to assassinate a Chinese spy chief allied with the Japanese.

Nevertheless, the film is likely to be seen by many Chinese through pirated DVD copies, as Chan himself predicted.

"I'm sure this movie will be widely available on the streets in China the day after it's released elsewhere," he said.

"Shinjuku Incident" will have its world premiere on March 22 as one of the two opening films of the Hong Kong International Film Festival and will be generally released in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia on April 2 and in Japan on May 1.

Chan's last two movies were both Hollywood productions -- "Rush Hour 3" in 2007 and the kung fu fantasy film "The Forbidden Kingdom" in 2008.
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