Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1999)


Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde: Adam Baldwin
Dr. Chao: Chang Tseng
McAfee/Newcomen: Steve Bastoni

Directed: Colin Budds
Executive Producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Written: Peter M. Lenkov

Summary: At Mount Song, China, “Birthplace of the Martial Arts,” the master is leaving. He has a disciple accept his “birthright,” his mission to protect “the Tiger,” as “the Dragon” must be defeated. Oy.

Dr. Henry Jekyll performs his last medical surgery before switching to plastic surgery and getting married to Muriel. One colleague says, “You’re a whore.” The honeymoon takes place in Hong Kong, where gang violence and black-market organ trade run rampant. It is the Chinese new year, the Year of the Tiger, and agents of the “Dragon” go all Herod, checking hospitals for newborns. But perhaps the Tiger is already here.

After an aborted boat excursion, Jekyll visits a local hospital. Gang shooting victims are brought in and a key thug demands that Jekyll, at gunpoint, save the life of his lieutenant. Jekyll cannot, and stalls until he can bash the man in the face and bolt. But he is captured, and he wakes up with apparently a kidney taken, flipping out about his wife having been captured also. She is tied to a buoy; he is thrown into the sea. He swims to her, but in lifting the tape off her mouth triggers a bomb. She dies in the hospital before police can question her.

A raid on a strip-club ruins a sting operation by a wise-ass Chicago cop, McAfee. Though assigned to work with a resentful Asian cop, Inspector Tong, the two monitor attendees at a funeral for a gang member.

Jekyll is restored to health with the tea-and-herbs cures of Doctor Chao, who insists about Muriel, “Your wife’s destiny was already written.” Chao has a beloved niece. An Asian female master-criminal (the “Dragon”?) senses that Jekyll is alive. “I can feel his energy.” Meanwhile, Jekyll is skeptical about Chao’s Chinese medicine and calls him a “Dr. Frankenstein.” But the healing works miraculously and Chao insists, “Chinese medicine, better than hospitals.” Jekyll learns some tai chi, which Chao says is not so much exercise as it is an art. Jekyll is not yet strong enough to launch his vengeance, though Chao vows to help. Jekyll follows Chao to work, where he meets the resentment and jealousy of red-haired shop-worker Mary Riley. Jekyll introduces himself as Edward Hyde. A semi-orphaned girl is also beloved by Chao. Though an old man, Chao can beat Jekyll at arm wrestling.

Jekyll tries to reassure Mary, learns about poisonous fish, and catches a glimpse of one of the culprits. He makes and drinks some concoction and freaks out, becoming a faintly striped Hulk. Chao, having dinner with his niece, senses something is wrong. Jekyll serves puffer fish to the culprit and tells the man that without the antidote they will swell to five times the size of his stomach in minutes, and he must reveal all he knows about who he works for. The man rushes into the streets, calling for the police. Jekyll follows and tells him there really is no antidote. McAfee and Tong show up just as the man’s stomach starts swelling. Chao yanks Jekyll away in time. Chao asks what Jekyll concocted. But Jekyll transforms back and has no memory. Chao says that revenge conquers the soul, that first Jekyll must learn the medicines and the martial arts, but he will help in the revenge mission. They start with breathing, then balance. Chao concocts a “kill-soup.” Chao’s niece attends a party for the corporate big-wig McAfee is after. A model of a new hospital is revealed. McAfee snarks off and afterwards is shot in the street. Jekyll as Hulk arrives and kills the assassin. Tong finds out McAfee is a fake name — he’s really on leave from the Chicago police to revenge his dead friend with a sad kid organ story. Jekyll is able to poke his finger through a soda can when Chao’s niece mentions the name of a gang thug. He messes with electronics and rigs a web-cam, eventually giving the URL to the police. But first he discovers Chao’s book, where he sees his own name. Chao explains, “Since the beginning of time….” Jeez-uzz! Tiger vs. enemy. Fate of mankind. Destiny. Every 144 years. Birthmarks.

In bright orange-red Hulk-vision, Jekyll stalks another gang thug. The web-cam allows police to see his opium-den visit to the guy, who under the influence of truth-smoke, reveals the fishery location of their headquarters. There’s a big fishery shoot-out. Jekyll is “the Chosen One” — the Tiger reborn.

That orphan girl is kidnapped. She reveals the store location and becomes a hostage at the new hospital. The message to Mary is that the Tiger must come. Chao goes, but the gang leader laughs at the old man and shoots him. Jekyll arrives: “He dies, you die.” A martial arts fight ensues, with Jekyll kicked off a ledge. But he lands on a beam and hears the girl. The fight resumes until the gang-guy’s hands start burning. Jekyll laced his clothes apparently with kill-soup and the scorpion venom kills the guy. Jekyll takes Chao back to the medicine shop — better than hospital.

Commentary: If you like the Jekyll/Hyde story but have always felt it needed a lot more martial arts, you still will think this film stinks to high heaven. The Francis Ford Coppola name helps raise expectations that this is a film, and so one expects superfluous characters such as Chao’s niece to be murdered in order that the vengeance aspect increase in intensity. But finally this seems as if it was an ill-advised tv pilot during a time when Coppola decided to diversify. He should focus on the wine-making though — that stuff is delicious.

There’s absolutely no reason to attach the Jekyll/Hyde names to this story. It, and the equally superfluous Mary Riley, are overlaid and in no way intrinsic. They didn’t even bother forcing any Jekyll/Hydeness on this bungle.

Jekyll and Hyde Films