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. 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 Big Brawl was a flop and 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 wasn't until 1995 with Rumble in the Bronx that Chan was able to bring his signature humor mixed with impressive stunt-work to American audiences.
The film featured an appearance from Lenny Montana, who had famously played Luca Brasi in The Godfather.
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 reception from critics.
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 taking few takes, all the way to the end of the action scene. It wasn't 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 the actors (and actresses) involved in the films he's involved in. Also is allowed to get as many takes until its right for the film.
In his autobiography "I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action", there was one scene in the production in which Robert Clouse is not interested in Chan's idea which is to flip out of the car and had wanted him to just walk from the car to his father restaurant. Chan quote's "No one will pay money to see Jackie Chan walk!" The reason he believes this film failed was because he wasn't given a chance to direct the action scenes the way he wanted them for the film.
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), and ended its run with US $8,527,743. Its box office performance was less disastrous than reputed to be, but was a disappointment to distributor Warner Brothers and Jackie Chan, who were expecting an Enter the Dragon-sized hit.