Ross Birks’s review published on Letterboxd:
I got to Chan Is Missing through reading about the American independent film boom of the 80s. Apparently it's one of the films that inspired Linklater to direct and you can easily imagine a 20 something Linklater watching this and getting psyched about it. It's really shocking how few American movies we get featuring Asian leads considering how much of the population they occupy, even today, so I can see why this made a bit of an impact when first released.
The hook of the film is very clever; two cabbies go in search of a friend who owes them money but he is nowhere to be seen. The narrative is built up of multiple vignettes featuring different characters giving contradictory accounts of where Chan has disappeared to. As a whole, the film never really sustains itself, but no matter because there are some great oddballs showcased, my favourite being a chain-smoking cook wearing a Samurai Night Fever T-shirt. Brilliant.
I like the two leads, both clearly not professionals but they have an authenticity to them that can't be faked. I love how there are always extras in the background looking into the lens, totally unaware of the film being made in front of them. It's a really cool feat of independent filmmaking that presents a refreshing perspective on things. The episodic structure would come into play again in Wayne Wang's later film Smoke but it's rawness and honesty here makes Chan Is Missing the more rewarding watch. A film of rough edges and messiness but the voice at the centre is a genuine one. I wouldn't call this a forgotten gem, but it's definitely overlooked.