Hong Kong–born Chan (I Am Jackie Chan, 1998), action star and the world’s best-known martial artist, outlines his life story in this (mostly) amiable memoir.
“We can’t beat blockbusters like Black Panther and Wonder Woman, but they can’t beat us when it comes to kung fu films or pure action—and no one, but no one, can top my huge collection of sticking tape!” So proclaims Chan, who is nothing if not competitive, though he’s usually good-humored about it. He was born into the middling rungs of territorial Hong Kong society, his father a martial artist who worked as a chef in a consulate, which landed Chan in a school among rich kids. Chan soon learned to defend himself with his fists, which led him to a school that blended martial arts and acting—just the recipe for the career he carved out for himself, landing his first starring role not long after Bruce Lee’s death in a movie called New Fist of Fury, “a major work that would herald the arrival of a new kung fu star,” as Chan was promised. He worked his way from contract player to star, always with an eye on the bigger prize of Hollywood. On that note, the memoir begins with his being awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2016. “After fifty-six years, making over two hundred films, and breaking many bones, I never thought I’d win one,” he allows, before adding that he wouldn’t mind winning another for a film in which he starred or directed. The book is definitively warts (and cracked skulls and broken bones and gallons of blood) and all: The author confesses to all kinds of bad behavior, though he writes that his greatest regret is not having been a better student. He warmly praises friends and colleagues such as Michelle Yeoh (“not many people can match me in my willingness to go for it”), Chris Tucker, and Sylvester Stallone.
There’s plenty of chopsocky goodness here, but Chan also reveals a soulful, thoughtful side—just one you wouldn’t want to mess with.