Director: Jackie Chan
Production Company: Authority Films
Leads: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
One thing Netflix does have a lot of is old Jackie Chan movies. I have to be careful to avoid the R-rated ones with Little Satis (it’s usually just for Chris Tucker‘s foul mouth), but there are plenty that are pretty much just harmless fun. A particular joy are those from the eighties before he moved to Hollywood, because some of them just don’t make any sense. We watched The Accidental Spy once (fair enough, that one’s from 2001), which is about a salesman who just happens to be a karate master. Fair enough.
At least in Project A Jackie Chan is an ex-cop turned sailor, so the martial arts is a little more explainable…maybe? Anyway, long story short, pirates are attacking the Chinese navy in Hong Kong, and despite all their efforts, they always seem to be one step ahead of the navy’s plans. The admiral, a kindly old man, is discharged, the ships abandoned, and naturally all the sailors become police officers. It turns out, however, that it was the police who were giving the information to the pirates in the first place. With the help of a shadowy, overweight kung-fu-chopping madman friend and a haughty police officer who nonetheless has his heart in the right place, our hero manages to fool the cops, bust an arms trade with the pirates, sneak into their island cove, duke it out with the super-badass pirate bad guy and escape just before it all blows to hell.
Frankly there isn’t a whole lot to be considered here. The whole thing feels a little bit like a Chinese James Bond film with martial arts. IMDB labels it as a “costume drama”, and the costumes certainly couldn’t be more dramatic. The pirates are wonderfully stereotyped, complete with swords and bare chests and pantaloons and drooping pencil mustaches:
All in all, the main reason to watch this movie – the main reason to watch any Jackie Chan movie – is for the stunts, and of those there are numerous and spectacular examples. The cycling stunts through the back alleys of Hong Kong are splendid, and when Jackie Chan manages to climb to the top of a forty-foot flagpole, jump onto a roof and crash through a loft window, all with his hands manacled, my heart did actually do a little leap. Every fight scene is beautifully choreographed, which is simply a pleasure to watch. There is humor, but often the true laughs are at the attempts to deliberately be funny – the crudeness of the slapstick is itself amusing (for example, when Chan’s bicycle seat falls off without his knowing, and he sits down on the bare pole).
There was one thing about the film that stuck out to me, and it was something that I personally was very appreciative of. Unlike many of his more modern films (and unlike most films these days), the on-location filming in the streets and back alleys of Hong Kong lends a wonderful authenticity that is so often missing these days. No spectacular sets, no jumping out of airplanes or off skyscrapers; the story is a simpler one, and so the locations are simpler. It makes one realize that huge sets are very impressive and all, but it can actually take away from what you’re supposed to be impressed by: the actors, and the action.