Release Date(s)2023 (October 24, 2023)
Studio(s)Shanghai Pictures (Well Go USA Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
Jackie Chan, close to 70 years old and with 150 movies under his belt, stars in a film that is more an homage to his career than a completely satisfying action drama. Written and directed by Larry Yang, Ride On teams Chan with a talented horse in the story of a legendary stuntman that the industry has forgotten.
Chan plays Luo, a once successful stuntman who has fallen on hard times. Accompanied only by Red Hare, the horse he nursed back to health as a sickly foal, Luo is reduced to extra work in movies and to costuming both himself and Red Hare in dopey outfits to make some cash attracting tourists into photo ops. Luo is also in debt, and when collector Dami (Andy On) and a gang of tough guys try to take Red Hare as collateral, Luo, aided by Red Hare, dispatches them using kung fu and any prop within reach. In Chan’s trademark fashion, these fights incorporate a lot of humor and are staged with amazing speed to heighten their effect.
Video of man and horse besting and humiliating Dami and his henchmen goes viral and revives interest in Luo’s stunt expertise. But lawyers come to Luo’s house with documents authorizing them to collect the debt or take the horse. With nowhere else to turn, Luo contacts his estranged daughter, Bao (Liu Haocun), who is currently studying for her law degree, and her fiancé, newly minted attorney Mickey (Kevin Guo). As they come to understand each other, their aloofness evolves into respect and affection and Bao begins to fear for her aging father’s safety. She wants Luo to stop putting himself and Red Hare in danger doing stunt work just as he is enjoying a resurgence in his movie career.
Luo regards Red Hare as his son, and the two share a loyal bond. The horse shares the man’s sense of fun as they support each other when they are attacked in street fights. It’s as if each can read the other’s mind in how to outsmart, outmaneuver, and overwhelm adversaries, even when outnumbered. Close-ups are especially amusing, as we can imagine exactly what the horse is thinking. Within only a few scenes, we come to love Red Hare.
Since the character of Luo in many ways is a fictional stand-in for Chan, there’s an opportunity to re-visit some of Chan’s greatest screen moments as Luo watches videos of his old films. It’s well documented that over his career, Chan has broken bones and suffered other injuries, so it’s amazing to see that he still has all his abilities as well as his charm. The stunt sequences are as witty, fast, and funny as ever, and it’s impossible not to be impressed at the sheer ingenuity of the fight choreography, credited to action director He Jun.
Dripping with sentimentality, Ride On has lots going on—brilliantly staged fights, the father-daughter conflict, impatient lawyers at the door, Luo’s rediscovery by younger filmmakers, and the fate of Red Hare. Director Yang resolves most of the conflicts with a feel-good moment that makes for a family-friendly movie but strains reality. Nonetheless, Ride On is so gentle-spirited, it’s hard not to fall under its charm, and that horse is a real scene stealer.
The film could have benefited from some pruning. Some scenes go on a bit too long and others slow the pace. The more serious moments are not Chan’s best and he often seems to be out of his element. When fists are flying and legs kicking, he’s terrific, but his acting chops are not up to the script’s dramatic requirements. He makes up for his limited acting prowess, however, with indisputable screen charisma and charm.
Ride On was captured by director of photography Ming Sun digitally and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1. There is little technical information available about the shoot, but the film features a sharp, clear image with excellent detail. The camera work and editing are especially notable in the fight sequences, which are instrumental in making them look both exciting and humorous. Detail in the wrinkles on Jackie Chan’s face, Red Hare’s mane, various costumes Chan wears, and a giant Ferris wheel are nicely delineated. The color palette ranges from muted when we see Luo at his modest home to much brighter on movie sets when primary colors really pop.
Soundtrack options include Mandarin or English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and Mandarin or English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options are English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), and Chinese (Simplified). The English dubbing of Luo sounds as if Chan himself did it, and understanding him is sometimes difficult because of his accent. The sound department pulls out the stops with the action sequences. Boards hitting characters, furniture being smashed, grunts, moans, fists and feet hitting their human marks, and bodies falling from heights to the ground enhance the mayhem. The snorting and whinnying of Red Hare provide equine “dialogue.”
Bonus materials on the Unrated Region A Blu-ray from Well Go USA Entertainment include the following:
- Behind-the-Scenes (8:49)
- On My Horse (2:55)
- Trailer (1:27)
- The Wandering Earth 2 (1:55)
- Born to Fly (1:57)
- Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman (1:36)
Behind-the-Scenes – This is in Mandarin with English subtitles. Director Larry Yang provides a synopsis of the plot of Ride On and refers to Jackie Chan as “the most brilliant stunt performer of his generation.” Chan talks about the preparation necessary for doing stunt work and refers to it as an “honored profession.” Before unions, the only safety net was the performer’s skill and his relationship with the crew. Yang speaks about Chan’s “muscle memory” to protect himself based on years of doing stunt work. In Ride On, Yang referenced many characters Chan had played during his career. Behind-the-scenes footage from the set is interspersed with interviews.
On My Horse – This brief featurette is also in Mandarin with English subtitles. The horse that played Red Hare in the film was a champion, chosen from among many horses, and was trained by an equestrian team. He had to be flattered and catered to in order to make sure he performed what the script required. The horse was never in real danger. Like stuntmen, he was well protected. At the end of the shoot, cast and crew became emotional when they had to say goodbye to him. They had fallen in love with the horse.
Ride On is an homage both to stunt people and to the career of Jackie Chan. In his earlier films, he seemed like a human cartoon with his nearly superhuman ability to defy gravity, walk away from falls with a smile, and dispatch bad guys by the score. This film is different from his previous work because of its reflective and nostalgic tone. Ride On is a fitting nod to Chan’s legacy.
- Dennis Seuling