Brow Beat

How Jackie Chan Brilliantly Combines Action and Comedy

One of the best video essayists around is Tony Zhou, whose erudite work we’ve featured time and again. His videos usually analyze auteurs like Scorsese, Fincher, and Bong Joon-Hoo, but his latest tackles a more mass-appeal figure: Jackie Chan. Zhou argues that Chan, besides being a peerless martial arts star, is in fact the foremost pioneer in combining action and comedy in the cinema.

Watching this video, you see why. As Zhou states, with Chan, “action is comedy,” and it’s that philosophy that makes him so innovative. Note how often he shows pain, a comic strategy that engages the audience. Note how he uses anything around him—a chair, a pair of chopsticks, a ladder—to lend levity and realism to a fight. And note, above all, how his sequences are never compromised by the camera—there are no handheld shots or quick editing, just the action and reaction in one frame. Zhou’s video is a reminder that Chan’s influence extends far beyond stunt choreography.