Wednesday, 11 July 2012



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1987 - Hong Kong (Golden Way Films Ltd, Paragon Films Ltd)

DIRECTOR: Jackie Chan
SCRIPT: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang
PHOTOGRAPHY: Yiu-Tsou Cheung
MUSIC: Siu-Tin Lai

     As soon as you realise that this is a Jackie Chan film, you start asking yourself 'why?'. I mean, we all know Jackie, don't we? Affable, with a smile so child-friendly to make a puppy Labradors start calling their union reps to organise an industrial action, and with a tendency to shower us with characters, who, while lovable, are not always up there with the Daniel Day Lewises of the acting Pantheon. Also, the reader's vigilant eye will no doubt locate the all-worrying 'PART TWO' in the title prompting the inquisitive mind to ponder, what the hell happened to the PART ONE and was it just insignificant, or to put it simply, a pile of manure? The reader, indeed, would be totally excused to wonder, ponder, ask questions and doubt. I know I did. And the answers are...

Is this a good moment to confess that I never really got to like Bruce Lee? Poor Lee is not to be blamed here though, it's purely due to the fact, that as a five, six year old I was a very sensitive child while my friends were trying oh-so-hard to prove to the whole world how adult they were (which was pretty much all about watching films they shouldn't have and making unsupported claims about kissing girls. Well, at least when it came to girls, unlike those lame muppets, I could boast some ACTUAL achievements). But when it came to the Bruce Lee films though, they seemed to have been just that little bit too violent for me. If you look at this, check at 24'. Now, there are some amateur-made replacements, but I know I saw that scene on the TV and the blade WAS ripping the flesh and blood WAS spurting aplenty. Why is the scene now missing, I've no idea, but I remember seeing it and that, subsequently, managed to put me off Bruce Lee's remaining filmography for a long while. That, in result, made me miss out on the whole martial arts genre altogether. Which brings us neatly to Jackie Chan, who turned out to be someone completely different than I expected, when I finally saw him atrociously dubbed in German (courtesy of my cable TV, which in mid 90s was just full of German channels and they simply adoooored Jackie). You see, I kept on hearing about him for so long, that when I finally saw him in a film I couldn't believe that this actually was THE Jackie Chan. I was expecting him to be twice that age. Also, I was expecting him to be much less of what he really is. Hearing from my friends about all those funny fight films from Hong Kong it was massively surprising to see someone that incredibly talented and authentic (by 'authentic' I may not mean the authenticity of the fights or the story plots, but his personal involvement and all those oh-so-bloody-hell real injuries). On the other hand, the dice has been cast and personal preferences set in stone forever (or at least still up to today) and I have never developed any real passion for the acrobatic martial arts genre.

It doesn't have to be a set back, though. Not being a Chan expert (or even an enthusiast), I was able to watch both parts of PROJECT A with a fresh mind and unexpecting attitude, which might have even helped a bit. I've decided to watch both films only because it felt weird to watch and then write about a sequel and risk loosing some meaningful context of the first film. Which would make perfect sense to any fairly logical person. You'd be hard pushed to find any logical reasoning in the book though. Let me quote the text:

'But why the sequel rather than the original movie? Project A, Part II follows the dictum of being "the same, only bigger," and it's here that one finds Chan at the peak of his powers as a filmmaker, a choreographer, and a martial artist(...)'

Well, pardon my French, but what a load of bollocks! Following that logic the TRANSFORMERS 2 is better than the original film, because it's "the same, only bigger". Or How about GARFIELD 2? PIRANHA 3DD anyone? God have mercy on our souls... And on top of that it's double bollocks, because that statement is simply untrue. There is a perfectly satisfying reason, why out of those two films it's the sequel that deserves its place among important films to watch in your lifetime. And that reason lies deeply in the fact, that the sequel is so UNLIKE the original film, for Pete's sake. While PROJECT A is simply a light-hearted comedy with more stunts-per-minute than words, PART II is a quite different kiddle of shrimp. The original film's plot, like in many other Jackie Chan productions, is simply a pretext for the martial arts ballet. The characters are so paper-thin, you could make Chinese lanterns out of them and even about the historical setting, Chan himself said, it was chosen because he wanted to make a film set in the times when Hong Kong was being threatened by the pirates. And yet, however incidental, that setting rose into significance when in the sequel the plot starts to revolve around the political status of not just Hong Kong, but the whole China of that era. Do not be alarmed though. It doesn't mean that all the fun is gone. It only means, that the fun is not there any more to be the only merit of the picture. Suddenly, apart from slapstick and frantic limbs-waving, we have also a very personal story that reflects Chan's attitude towards his own nationality. When the main character - Dragon - states that 'he just wants to be a good cop' (while declaring himself neutral to the revolution), it is difficult not to think about Chan himself, trying to simply be proud of being Chinese, without any visible political affiliation. It is very clear that both Chan, and Dragon, speak the same language and every time they say "China", they mean by it the nation, not the governments or regimes of which, in its over 4000 years long history, Chinese civilisation has seen quite a few.

It is not a complicated message and the way it is being delivered is far from sophisticated too. But that's all right because, after all, this still is a comedy, this still is a slapstick, this still is a Jackie Chan's kung fu extravaganza. People die and the imperial regime's henchmen are brutal, but with no ice factory in sight, the literal violence is minimal, while the acrobatic fights are both impressive and entertaining. This is still a very typical Jackie Chan film, it's just that there is more Chan Kong-san in it, than Jackie. Somehow Adiskadi Tantimedh from 1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE has managed to miss it completely. And for that uncomplicated, maybe even slightly infantile in its naivety, yet deeply sincere and coming from the bottom of the heart message this films gets some extra points. On top of that, it is still fantastically entertaining, and even if it's not exactly your cup of oolong tea, there are still things about Chan and his team that command the highest respect. Just watch the outtakes during the end credits and try not to cringe. It is also worth  noting that although both film are very firmly set in the Chinese tradition, Chan's love for the slapstick's classics is definitely also very comprehensive, to say the least. There are tribute scenes there copied from Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd films that will warm hearts of every cinema lover. Guilty pleasure? Maybe a little bit, but a pleasure, nonetheless.

Get it on AMAZON

Previously on 1001 FILMS TO SEE AND NOT DIE: 8 1/2 - Federico Fellini, 1963
Next on the list: A Nous La Liberte - Rene Clair, 1931
And after that: A One And A Two (Yi Yi) - Edward Yang, 2000


  1. Two things (almost) completely unrelated. First, it's 50th anniversary of Jackie Chan's acting debut this year. Second - that should give him a co-star credit in "The Expendables 3".

  2. Ekhem... Expendables 3??? They've changed it to TV series now? One-film-a-year project? Does anyone actually keep a track of who's appearing in those films? And what happened to the female version that was allegedly planned next?

    My head hurts...