Let’s get this out of the way: Skiptrace is not an original movie by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, the latest creation from filmmaker Renny Harlin is a perfect rehash of everything that has worked best for star Jackie Chan up to this point. The inclusion of co-star Johnny Knoxville is a fresh twist, but make no mistake—you’ve seen this movie before.
Chan stars as Detective Bennie Chan, a veteran cop who has spent the years immediately preceding the start of Skiptrace watching over his deceased partner’s daughter, Samatha (played by Bingbing Fan). After Samatha encounters Connie Watts (Johnny Knoxville) on the same night he witnesses a murder at a high class hotel, her mob-affiliated bosses task her with finding and returning the strange American. Samatha turns to Bennie for help, and soon the aging action star is criss-crossing the globe in search of the mysterious stranger. Once found, Bennie must bring Connie back to China in order to guarantee Samatha’s freedom.
While the premise of Skiptrace is built atop a genuinely interesting conceit, the film quickly devolves into another version of the Rush Hour or Shanghai Noon franchise shortly after Chan and Knoxville’s characters encounter one another. Chan is the straight shooter dead set on following the rules, and Knoxville is the wise-cracking numbskull whose best efforts to escape custody are always foiled by his own stupidity. Together they encounter strange people, sing Adele covers, ride rapids, and fight over a broken down truck while bickering back and forth about the real motivations behind the request to bring Connie to justice. It all relies on the chemistry of the stars to work, and in this case the leads appear like old friends.
The only glaring error in Skiptrace, aside from the aforementioned familiarity, is the score and accompanying music cues. There is a cartoonish nature to certain sequences that flattens any chance for tension to be established. It’s safe to say a film like this doesn’t command a lot of concern for whether or not the leads will live to see the third act, but when action sequences do arise they are met with something that feels intended for classic Saturday morning cartoons.
Renny Harlin has spent the past decade looking for his last hit (I still haven’t forgiven him for trying to create one that doubled as a vehicle for Kellan Lutz), and Skiptrace has all the pieces needed to give him just that. I do hope, however, that Harlin learns a thing or two from the glaring technical shortcomings found in this film before settling back into the director’s chair for what feels like an inevitable second film in a series that could easily become a full-blown franchise in five years’ time. There is a lot to love here, but nothing feels all that unique or original. It’s perfectly enjoyable, albeit forgettable entertainment filled with people who have been more deserving of success in other, far more substantial roles.