Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jackie Chan's Project A

The Action Mutant…
imagines Project Z involves wall-eyed midgets.

Jackie Chan’s Project A

review by Joe Burrows

Yea, I know. Why don’t I just call this site “The Action Chan” or “Chanaholics Anonymous”? I admit, I am a huge Jackie Chan fan (even with the revelation of this site) and have more of his films in my collection than any other action star. In fact, aside from what I have already reviewed, there are about 18 other Chan films I have in my possession that I plan to review at some point! Don’t worry, though. I’ll watch some Stallone or Van Damme soon enough. It’s all for you, people…it’s all for you.

The Plot, as it was:
Jackie is Dragon Ma, a Coast Guard officer that leads his fellow officers into trying to keep pirates out of the sea. After a big fight with the police (their professional rivals), Dragon and his mates are taken off of pirate patrol and bumped down to cops themselves. Turns out the pirates are paying off corrupt officials so they can continue their pillaging ways. Dragon and his men team up with a well known thief named Fats (Sammo Hung) to take on the pirates and end the corruption.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Obviously, Chan doesn’t know how to incorporate the phrase “scaling it down a bit” for any of his films. This is one of a series of unmitigated masterpieces that Chan fashioned in the 1980s that seamlessly blend action, adventure and comedy equally. Jackie fully moves away from the old school martial arts fests he was apart of during the 1970s and just leaves the doors wide open for all kinds of combat. The fight set pieces at a bar, mansion and pirate ship include some of the most insane falls and movements of any Chan vehicle and really set the bar for his future projects. The rapport between the “Three Brothers” (Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao) shines though in both action and comic moments and all three get their moments to shine. Of course, Jackie gets the most moments (it is his film, after all) as he most memorably apes silent era comedian Harold Lloyd by hanging from a clock tower. The action is almost perpetual and is the kind of grand scale adventure filmmaking that became a lost art in Hollywood. The only caveat I can pick up is that the film doesn’t feel as epic as it is if you are watching Dimension’s bare bones DVD reissue, which is the film’s main distributor unfortunately.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- If you watch the American reissue by Dimension Films, listen up for Danny Trejo voicing Lor Sam Pau.

Body Count/Violence: 39. The dead are done in mainly by (bloodless) shotgun blasts and grenade attacks. The fight scenes are wall to wall movement, with everyone being tossed through all kinds of furniture and taking amazing falls. There are also explosions, a pretty memorable bike chase and Jackie falling through an awning right on top of his head! There is more action than actual violence, as per most of Chan’s films.

Sexuality/Nudity: Aside from the occasional insinuation, nothing at all.

Language/Dialogue: Pretty clean.

How bad was it?:
Project A was universally revered by critics and fans alike, even if it was largely ignored in America at the time. Many Chan fans consider this his best, if not easily in his Top 5.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
The film was released in Hong Kong by Golden Harvest in 12/22/83 and recorded $19.3 at the HK box office. It wouldn’t see an American theater release until 1987 and, even then, it was only limited to the West Coast (where Chan’s films are most popular in the U.S.). Dimension Films reissued Project A for an American DVD release on 5/16/00 and gave it its usual top shelf treatment by adding new opening and closing credits, dubbing over the original Cantonese audio and cutting the film by 7 minutes (106 to the HK version’s 113 minutes).

Film: ****/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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