I was intrigued to see my favorite action star take a major dramatic turn. The action sequences are handled realistically and they serve the plot beyond showcasing Chan’s awesome skills. Somewhere is some social commentary about Chinese-Japanese relations and even a romance or two. Those may have been lost at sea, however.
Jackie Chan, as “Steelhead,” IS the Chinese everyman turned illegal immigrant in Japan then becomes a mobster. Maybe? It’s unfortunate that Chan acts mostly stone-faced. The filmmakers also position Chan to not become a complete scumbag. However, Steelhead is hard-headed for being loyal to his other immigrant buddies while believing he has high integrity.
The filmmakers failed to convince me to sympathize Chan even to the end. I wondered why they would need Chan’s services if the action sequences would be functional but not noteworthy. I also wonder whether Chan realizes his acting range is either non-emotive or wildly sobbing. Chan is going around never believing Steelhead has poor judgment and is becoming despicable.
Naoto Takenaka is the best actor in the movie with his sympathetic Inspector Kitano. Takenaka plays everything just right with Kitano being one of the few people knowing the full risks involved with mob entanglement. Meanwhile, the two female leads, Xu Jinglei and Fan Bingbing, have the obligatory romantic elements. The movie almost forgets about these ladies while Chan goes through the main plot. That results in my losing interest in their characters.
Shinjuku shows that there is no honor among thieves. The second half of the movie is livelier with full-on gang warfare. The movie as a whole is not very compelling. Chan trades goofy but flashy action for goofy non-acting. This movie is suitable only for Asian crime drama fans and Chan completists.