Thursday, March 27, 2008

Operation Condor (aka Armour of God II)

The Action Mutant…
tells the Weinsteins “Thank You!” Wait…no, I meant…

Operation Condor (AKA Armour of God II)

review by Joe Burrows

Ok, see if you can stay with me here. In 1986, Jackie Chan made a film called Armour of God. Its sequel came five years later and was called Armour of God II: Operation Condor. Fast forward to 1997, when Dimension Films is in the midst of re-releasing Chan’s old HK efforts like crazy. They decide to release Armour of God II: Operation Condor in America and just call it Operation Condor. Later on, they would release the first Armour of God film as a sequel to Operation Condor, calling it Operation Condor 2: Armour of God! In other words, the HK original is the sequel to its own sequel in America. In all honesty, go read “Down and Dirty Pictures” by Peter Biskind, which shows how horribly the Weinstein Brothers butcher their own products, Asian or otherwise.

The Plot, as it was:
Jackie reprises his role as adventurer Jackie Condor (clever, I know), who gets enlisted by a European count to find buried gold left by the Nazis in the Sahara desert. It wouldn’t be a movie without sidekicks to complicate matters and they are in the forms of agent Ada (Carol Cheng) and the dead Nazi commander’s granddaughter Elsa (Eva Cobo de Garcia). Misunderstandings and hijinks ensue.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
At one time, Operation Condor was the most expensive production in Hong Kong cinema’s history, with a budget at approximately $115 million (HK; $15 million in America). Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its lofty expectations, despite some spectacular moments and great locations. As usual, Jackie pulls things out of the hat that you never saw before. If he’s not bouncing down a hill inside a plastic bubble, he’s jumping a motorcycle off of a ship and grabbing onto mid-air cargo. These are great moments and usually, they would be the bread sandwiching in goofy dialogue and Chan’s physical comedy. If the latter is weak, there’s at the very least little down time in between the action. However, this all seems to fall flat and is not as attention getting as in other Chan vehicles. The gags with the two ladies are tired, as Harrison Ford pulled that aspect off more subtly in the Indiana Jones films. Cheng and Garcia are great to look at but there’s little sense of chemistry with their lead, which is made worse by the horrible dubbing and all too cookie cutter bad guys to deal with. The last 15 minutes pick up well, as Chan’s fight with two villains inside of a wind tunnel is definitely all-time highlight reel material. Don’t be surprised if you hadn’t checked out by then, though.

Body Count/Violence: 3. It’s more about derring-do than actual violence here. Plenty of Chan’s trademark fights and falls abound. There are some shootings, which leads to the few corpses.

Sexuality/Nudity: Cheng’s behind is shown twice and Garcia saunters around in her underwear and has her towel pulled off once (though only her back is seen). Literally more cheeky than the usual Chan fare.

Language/Dialogue: Not much.

How bad was it?:
Chan fans and critics alike are mixed about the film, whatever name it may have. Some critics (such as Ebert) were easy to accept it as bubblegum entertainment but others admit that the material was lean, even by Jackie’s standards.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
It’s a tough call to make. Condor made $39 million in its HK run, which was well below its record $115 million budget. It made its money back overseas but was not an overwhelming success. Aside from a customary 1991 West Coast release, Condor was released in America by Dimension Films on 7/18/97 with 14 minutes excised from it (106 minutes to 92) and the usual changes made. It only spent a few weeks in American theaters, earning $10.4 million. This was during the year or so downturn for Jackie in America before Rush Hour.

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

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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