The Big Brawl
|The Big Brawl|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Clouse|
|Produced by||Raymond Chow|
|Written by||Robert Clouse|
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||Robert C. Jessup|
|Edited by||George Grenville|
|Distributed by||Golden Harvest (Hong Kong)|
Warner Bros. (U.S.)
|Box office||US$25 million|
The Big Brawl, (Chinese: 殺手壕) also known as Battle Creek Brawl, is a 1980 martial arts film which marked Jackie Chan's first attempt to break into the American movie market. A joint Hong Kong and American production, it was directed by Robert Clouse and featured much of the crew from Enter the Dragon.
The film is set primarily in Chicago, Illinois in the 1930s (although it was shot in Texas) and follows Chan's character, a Chinese American martial artist, as he single-handedly takes on the Mafia. The film featured an appearance from Lenny Montana, who had famously played Luca Brasi in The Godfather.
While a moderate success in North America and Hong Kong, The Big Brawl was a disappointment as it performed below expectations. Despite this, the film went on to have more success in other Asian and European markets. The film's disappointing performance in North America, however, led to Chan being advised to try supporting roles such as the Japanese racing car driver in The Cannonball Run. Chan later made another attempt to break into the American market with 1985's The Protector, which suffered the same fate as this film. It was not until 1995 with Rumble in the Bronx that a Chan film showcasing his signature humor and stunt-work was a hit in American theaters.
Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Jerry Kwan (Jackie Chan) leads a very easy-going life with his girlfriend, Nancy (Kristine DeBell), and his family. His father owns a restaurant, and one day, he is threatened by the mob to pay a part of his profits. As the mob exits, Jerry enters the scene and rushes out the door to catch up with them. He answers back by taking them on and eventually catches the eye of the mob for his unique and talented fighting abilities. In effect, he is forced to join the Battle Creek Brawl fight in Texas. The mob promises to return his brother's fiancèe and give him the prize money as long as Jerry wins the tournament. He gets help from his uncle a kung-fu teacher to train him for the Battle Creek Brawl. They focus on Jerry's speed and agility as he must fight very tough opponents, one of them including Billy Kiss (H.B. Haggerty), the big, bulky, unbeatable winner from previous battles who kisses his opponents after they are defeated.
- Jackie Chan as Jerry Kwan
- José Ferrer as Dominici
- Kristine DeBell as Nancy
- Mako as Herbert
- Ron Max as Leggetti
- David Sheiner as Morgan
- Rosalind Chao as Mae
- Lenny Montana as John
- Peter Marc as Jug
The film received a mixed-to-positive reception from critics, holding a 67% average critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety magazine gave it a generally favorable review at the time, calling it "an amusing chopsocky actioner whose appeal is not limited to the usual audience for this genre."
In an interview with Chan on the region 2 DVD, Chan discusses the differences between Chinese and American styles of action. In his early US films, The Big Brawl and The Protector (1985), Chan had to perform the typical American fight sequences involving punches, kicks and doing few takes, all the way to the end of the action scene. It was not until Rumble in the Bronx (1995) that Chan was allowed to use more of his preferred action style, in which he works together with his stunt team and co-stars. It was also then that he was able to do as many takes as he needed in order to capture the sequences adequately.
In his autobiography I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action, Chan relates one scene in the production in which Robert Clouse was not interested in Chan's idea, which was to flip out of a car. Clouse wanted Chan to simply walk from the car to his father's restaurant. Chan responded, "No one will pay money to see Jackie Chan walk!", and felt that the lack of freedom to choreograph sequences the way he wanted underlined the reason for the film's failure.
The Big Brawl opened on August 29, 1980 on 231 North American screens. In its opening weekend, it grossed US$1,108,025 ($4,792 per screen), topping the weekend box office. It ended its run with US$9 million, making it a moderate success against a budget of US$4 million, ranking among the year's top 70 highest-grossing films (equivalent to US$29 million adjusted for inflation in 2018). However, it was a disappointment to distributor Warner Brothers and Jackie Chan, who were expecting an Enter the Dragon sized hit.
In Hong Kong, the film grossed HK$5,776,530 (US$1.2 million). While this made it the year's second highest-grossing film at the Hong Kong box office, the film's performance in Hong Kong was also a disappointment to Golden Harvest.
The film had more success in other international markets. In Taiwan, it grossed NT$8,546,008 (US$288,561) from 296,931 admissions, becoming the second most-watched film of 1980. In Japan, it grossed ¥940 million (US$8.51 million) at the box office. In South Korea, it was the second highest-grossing film of 1980 (behind Jackie Chan's The Young Master), with 233,674 box office admissions in Seoul, equivalent to approximately ₩467.35 million (US$770,000).
It was also a success in France, where the film was released as Le Chinois and sold 1,510,009 box office admissions, making it the 24th highest-grossing film of 1981. At an average ticket price of 30 F (US$3), it grossed approximately 45,300,270 F (US$4,530,027) in France. In Germany, it was the 43rd highest-grossing film of 1981, with 174,967 box office admissions. At an average ticket price of US$2.78, the film grossed approximately US$490,000 in Germany. Combined, the film's total worldwide box office gross was approximately US$25 million, equivalent to US$85 million adjusted for inflation in 2018.
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Golden Harvest's success with Security Unlimited put its international fare, like Battle Creek Brawl (U.K.: The Big Brawl), somewhat to shame with disappointing takings locally.
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Average Ticket Prices in Korea, 1974-1997 [...] * Source: Korea Cinema Yearbook (1997-1998) * Currency: won [...] Foreign [...] 1980 [...] 2,000
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