Ride On (龙马精神, 2023)
Director (and writer): Larry Yang
Cast: Jackie Chan, Haocun Liu, Kevin Guo, Yueting Lang, Andy On, Jing Wu, Shenyang Xiao, Joey Yung, Rongguang Yu
A washed-up stuntman and his stunt horse become an overnight social media sensation when their real-life fight with debt collectors goes viral. – IMDB
For most Jackie Chan fans, Ride On is a film made by a director who is a big fan of his as well as he gets to work with someone that he praises but also creates an alternate storyline of a character that has the life of Jackie Chan but is called Luo who is a stuntman who knows gains a second fame with his stunt horse, Red Hare. There’s no doubt that this film almost feels like a farewell film from Jackie Chan as it feels a lot like a tribute as Luo’s character rewatches the Jackie Chan blooper reel of all the accidents he has had at one point. At the same time, the film does highlight Jackie Chan (and his fellow stunt peers) who has lived their lives at the heyday of Hong Kong action films and their dangerous stunts that they had no choice but to do for their living but has now moved forward to try to provide a much safe environment, praising both the hard work and the fight from the past stunt actors (and actresses) but also the respect and pride of the career being more than the authenticity of doing the stunts but also accepting that there is a better way in today’s technology because its important to protect the lives of those involved even if its just a horse in this case.
Ride On is more than just about the stuntman life although everything else around it does feel like the result and sacrifices of choosing this life. The film runs at around 2 hours with Jackie Chan’s Luo portraying an older man who has gone through his career hardships to finally be a washed-up stuntman living at the Hengdian World Studios with his horse Red Hare. When the man who sold him Red Hare gets taken over, the company tries to get back their property, Red Hare, sinking him into a seek for legal help which leads to him trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Xiaobao (Haocun Liu) who is a law student dating a young lawyer Mickey (Kevin Guo). Despite the rocky start, he soon bonds with his daughter through this case but also a constant breaking point when his new fame takes him and Red Hare to more and more dangerous stunts which Xiaobao doesn’t agree with and constantly tries to convince him to stop before they both get hurt. While this is categorized as an action comedy, its hard to deny that when a father and daughter relationship and a man and his horse ‘s relationship is put to the test, there’s a fair amount of drama that will inevitably be involved.
With that said, Ride On has a lot of tangents and side plots and side characters which aren’t completely all necessary to make this story’s point but some of it is added for the comedic moments, some is there to give more classic Jackie Chan comedic stunt action with a new twist and some of it is to give it the stronger backup cast it needs to give this film more credit with small roles like successful action stars like Jing Wu and Joey Yung playing as Luo’s disciple and Andy On as the debt collector. The story does have some lull moments but Larry Yang crafts a story that truly gives such a shining light primarily to the relationship between Luo and Red Hare right from the first scene that makes all they go through in these two hours all the more connected to them by the end when their final fate lies in the final verdict. Boy, were my heartstrings pulled. I never thought I’d feel so much for a horse.
Now’s a great time to talk about the cast though. This film is a tribute to Jackie Chan’s career so casting him in his role and having him rewatch those reels is a strong moment. Growing up on Jackie Chan films, its been crazy to watch his career get to where it is now and at his age (almost 70) still being able to carry out these stunts. The man truly respects this life a lot and its what aligns with this character of Luo. The daughter Xiaobao is played by Haocun Liu which is a decent job. Her role does feel like it lacks the depth and feels a little more by the books since her relationship with her father does play a big role but its never quite as strong as his with Red Hare. Mickey, also called Naihua is played by cross-talk actor (Traditional Chinese style stand-up comedy) who is the main comedy outlet here as his interaction with Jackie Chan is one of a future father-in-law trying to craft his future son-in-law to be strong enough to protect his daughter while creating some reluctant interaction with Red Hare. The fear of both Luo and Red Hare from Mickey makes it all the more humorous, which is great when it cuts into some of the more tense moments between their relationship and gives the film a good balance. The English subs are truly fantastic giving him the name Mickey and when they meet his parents, their names are Donald and Daisy. Its not really a big part of the film and not a spoiler by any means but just a good example of the fun moments.
The star of Ride On has to be Red Hare. While this film shows Red Hare as a stunt horse, in reality, he is a retired professional race horse which is also carefully chosen so that his champion race horse stubbornness would play well into Red Hare’s personality here and gives him a certain playfulness. Red Hare is probably one of the most endearing animal characters which didn’t need to talk but the directing and cinematography and I guess choreography managed to give a great performance and truly make the audience care about him from worrying about the possibility of him getting hurt in the dangerous stunts and being scared for him when he was scared or even feeling bad for him when Luo was giving him a hard time for not completing his tasks on par.
Ride On isn’t probably what anyone expects when they first turn on this film. Its not as plentiful in the stunt department although there is one big scene. There are little moments in the film that you can recognize as variations of Jackie Chan’s past stunts. There’s a playback of his reels where he got hurt through his film career. The tribute is done in a really great way. If this is Jackie Chan’s final film (but nowhere has announced it to be), it would be a fitting one. Since it isn’t, its a fun and touching one and especially memorable and well-appreciated for Jackie Chan fans.
*Screener provided by Well Go USA*