'Project A' review by MartialHorror
(Directed by Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung)
"Project A deserves an A.....yeah, how cheesy of me."- Signed by MartialHorror.
Plot: A Hong Kong Navy man must team up with a Policeman and a crook to take down the local Mob and dangerous Pirates. Also known as “’A’ gai wak”.
I’ve come to a sad realization about myself, and my feelings of Jackie Chan. I am more of a fan of the idea of Jackie Chan than Jackie Chan himself. My heart goes out to a man who can give us quirky but complex fight scenes and dangerous stunts. Or maybe I am a fan of Jackie, just not a fan of his movies. I watch them religiously, even though I generally know I will be disappointed. You see, there is an annoying pattern in his films. Either the annoying comedy routine will bring down great action films like “Police Story”, or the lack of said comedy creates boring dramas like “The Myth”. Jackie tends to be a funny guy himself, but either the writing, directing or comical antics of the people around him bring him down. But when he tries to be serious, he just comes across as boring. He’s not a bad dramatic actor, he’s just not a compelling one. Hence, most of my reviews of his movies tend to be unenthusiastic(although often positive). I keep asking myself, can there be a balance? Can he do a comedy-kung fu film that is heavy on action, with comedy that amuses me? One that isn’t American? I’m happy to say that there is at least one film that’s a perfect balance. That film is “Project A”.
In a way, “Project A” was a necessity for Jackie. His most previous film was “DragonLord”, an ambitious but unfocused(yes, I am ripping off Roger Ebert) kung fu epic that is one of the few big budgeted Hong Kong films to suffer from tacked on action scenes that feel superfluous to the plot while the plot itself is a boring drama. That film underperformed at the box office. That mistake was made due to his irritation at his first attempt to break into the American Box office(“The Big Brawl”). I’m sure that Lo Wei releasing “Fearless Hyena 2” didn‘t help either. That was sort of like Bruce Lee’s “Game of Death”, which only featured a little bit of Bruce Lee, lots of Bruce Lee stock footage and lots of body doubles. If I remember correctly, Jackie's autobiography also goes into detail how he ruined a budding relationship between him and a Pop star. In essence, he was a mess, so decided to call upon his brothers from the school where he learned all that he knows for help. They were Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. So he did a few movies with them known as the “Lucky Stars“ films, even though I wasn’t a fan of most of them. To be fair, I expected them to be Jackie Chan movies like the box-cover promised, so I wouldn’t call my memories of them worthwhile. But Jackie only had small roles, so he knew that he had to come out with his biggest, baddest movie yet. He went all out in “Project A”, which I’d argue is his best film.
The plot follows Dragon(Jackie Chan) and before you laugh at the name, realize that Chinese names often translate into stuff like that, and yes, I watched the dub version…Which I hear is a butchered version of the original, which REALLY makes me want to watch the original. Dragon is part of the Navy and they do not get along well with the Police. Both sides seem to be at fault. The Navy is shown to be incompetent, while the Police tend to suffer for it, and they just act like *beep* in return. During a brawl, Dragon gets into a fight with Captain Tzu(Yuen Biao) and they start a rivalry. Unfortunately, the navy is discontinued when their ships are blown up, and they are forced to become police. After some hard training missions, Tzu and Dragon must catch a criminal who is being harbored by some big club owner. This leads to him being reunited with Fei(Sammo Hung), an old friend who has become a small-time crook. Fei decides to help Dragon(for his own benefit), and this ends up dragging them into a battle with pirates. Soon, Dragon and Fei must get the help of Captain Tzu and together they take on some pirate goons.
Okay, so the plot isn’t all that, being one of those strange mixes of thin and convoluted. The character relationships don’t develop well enough. For the first half of the film, you expect it to focus on the growing relationship between Dragon and Tzu, but Tzu disappears until the end and Fei pretty much takes over for him, creating a crack in the narrative. There is also an unhealthy dose of comedy. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s irritating, but overall I’d say it’s mostly harmless. But none of that matters, because Jackie Chan delivers lots of great fight scenes, jaw dropping stunts(The clock tower bit probably being one of the most brutal things I’ve ever seen) and most of all: It’s almost non stop. Most Jackie Chan movies(especially during his prime) had great fight scenes and great stunts, but never THIS much. For like 80% of the middle block, it’s just Jackie Chan finding himself in one action scene and running right into another. For once, I’ve had a fully enjoyable experience while watching a Jackie Chan movie. I was never bored, never really annoyed and even the flaws within the story didn’t occur to me until after it was all finished. For the entire film, I was just swept up in watching Yuen Biao(or is it Biao Yuen?), Sammo Hung and ESPECIALLY Jackie Chan delivering some of the best action ever filmed.
The acting is hard to pin down because I watched the dubbed version. Jackie Chan(Dragon) delivers his usual goofy charm that can suddenly be replaced with his sudden rebellious anger whenever he is disappointed by corruption or crime. It’s what he does best. Sammo Hung(Fei) always seems to play the sleazy guy when starring opposite Jackie, but he always manages to be likeable. One of the things I liked about the character is that while he will doublecross Dragon, he wouldn’t do so if it meant his friend getting hurt. Sammo plays the role well, and we’re always surprised to see how well he can move, despite his weight. Yuen Biao(Tzu) suffers from looking like every Hong Kong action star ever(at least to us dumb western folks), but he is also a pretty good actor with lots of charm. In fact, he probably does better here than usual. I also liked his dubbed voice. Everyone else does about as well as expected.
“Project A” is, in my opinion, Jackie Chan’s best film. He’s done some stinkers and some mediocre films, but most of them are simply uneven. They’re good as action films, but either there isn’t enough action or the humor becomes tedious. “Project A” is full of wonderfully choreographed and dangerous action, and the humor never brought it down. Hell, at times, I think it even benefited the picture. “Project A” is an A-class picture. Even the technical wizardry was a lot better for the time.
Violence: There are some harsh moments. Heavy PG-13 worthy, I’d say.
Overall: “Project A” is a must see for kung fu fans and Jackie Chan fans….Although I suspect that you’ve already seen it.
my reviews of martial arts and horror films