Naturally, each man soon finds himself knee-deep in debt, forcing them to take a job that may be a bit too cruel for even them. You see, for a substantial sum of money, Thongs, Octopus, and Landlord must kidnap a baby for a ruthless Triad boss who believes this child could be his dead son's offspring. While attempting to flee with the child, Landlord is snatched by police and thrown into the proverbial slammer. This leaves Thongs and Octopus in charge of the baby, an assignment that includes nursing, bathing, feeding, and battling the Triad goons who want the baby for their boss. Will these podunk thieves realize that life is worth more than money, or will they cave to the enormous sum offered in exchange for that adorable little moppet?
If you're not a fan of babies, then Rob-B-Hood might be a title to avoid. Why? Well, there are a TON of oh-so cute moments involving said child, most of them borrowed from other like-minded cinematic endeavors over the span of, oh, film history. There are a number humorous moments involving soiled diapers, male nipples, baby formulas -- in other words, a plethora of screwball antics that seem to have been inspired by any number of 1950's family comedies. Before you shake your head and declare Jackie an over-the-hill pansy, I should mention that the man's patented brand of kinetic stuntwork is still in full swing.
In fact, a number of these scenes involve the baby itself, though their execution leaves much to be desired. When the child is, say, dangling from such great heights, you can tell he's digitally inserted into the scene. And when the baby falls from, say, SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS, it's clearly a dummy. Do these wonky effects detract from the tension? Not really. Then again, I wasn't expecting them to toss around a real baby. One sequence involving Jackie, the baby, and an amusement park ride is particularly intense, and while I could easily tell that we're not dealing with a real baby during this scene, it didn't stop me from biting my nails to the bone. Kudos to director Benny Chan, whose recent features have been a marked improvement over such rubbish as Heroic Duo and Gen-X Cops. Is this guy the future of Hong Kong cinema? Probably not, but he certainly does an admirable job here.
Now I'm sure you're wondering, "Does Jackie get to beat up anyone during this film? If not, I'm not gonna watch it!" Well, there ARE a handful of well-executed fights, mind you, but you'll have to wade through some VERY heavy-handed moments in order to find them. Like The Myth and New Police Story, Chan's desire to wallow in melodrama is alive and well. While he's not exactly the worst actor you've ever seen, he's certainly not the best, causing his more sincere scenes to fall flat. The film's conclusion is probably the worst offender, sinking so deep into this sappy swamp that you may find yourself reaching for the STOP button on your DVD player.
Because of these questionable bits of tear-jerking nonsense, the film is a bit overlong by about twenty minutes or so. I've found this to be a problem with most of his Hong Kong releases, especially Miracles. God help me, I actually prefer those abysmal American edits to this stuff. While I applaud the guy for trying something different, I can't say that his experiments are a smashing success. Shave a chunk of Rob-B-Hood's weaker moments off and you might actually have a snazzy little family film. It's still a good movie as it stands, of course, but it could be stronger.
On the performance front, everyone is fine and dandy and as sweet as candy. Jackie's turn as Thongs is decent, though he's immediately overshadowed by the presence of Louis Koo (Election 1 & 2) and veteran Hong Kong actor Michael Hui. Thankfully, all three have great chemistry, leaving no doubt in the viewer that these three bumbling idiots could possibly be somewhat decent at their chosen profession. The rest of the cast is fitting though not exactly striking. Thong's love interest is a cute little number, but she's very forgettable and does nothing to really advance the plot. A pretty female face to break up the boy's club, nothing more.
Finally, Chan's Stunt Team is also spot-on. They're given a bit more screen time a few more lines of dialogue than usual, and each turns in a suitably goofy performance. These guys and gals are top notch. Without them, I don't think Jackie's flicks would be nearly as entertaining as they are. Because behind every great action hero is a team of highly-trained professionals who know how to take a beating and make it look good. So to speak.
Rob-B-Hood is solid entertainment, the kind you've come to expect from the likes of Mr. Jackie Chan. The involvement of a baby isn't quite as groan-inducing as I was expecting, which is certainly a good thing. American movies involving small children often pander to the lowest common denominator, resulting in a film that works better as a pacifier than an actual motion picture.
Thankfully, Rob-B-Hood doesn't skimp on the action or the suspense. And instead of using the baby as a way to amp up the cute factor, it's used as an actual plot device. Imagine that! Of course, this film isn't Chan's best effort, nor is it something your everyday action fan will embrace with open arms. Wading through the melodrama can be a pain in the posterior from time-to-time, but I think it's well worth the investment. Packed with enough stunts and action to satisfy this Chan fanatic, Rob-B-Hood is an innocently entertaining way to blow two hours of your life. Will it be something you'll want to watch again and again? Eh, probably not. But it's certainly something you'll want to see at least once.
Though you may never eat a chili dog with mustard again.