Tuesday, March 23, 2010
'A' gai wak; martial arts comedy, Hong Kong / China, 1983; D: Jackie Chan, S: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Lee Hoi Sang, Kwan Hoi-san, Dick Wei, Isabella Wong
Hong Kong, late 19th century: pirates rob ships and bribe corrupt politicians for immunity. After some time, the pirates even destroy the ships from the navy which gets defunct due to such failure, leaving all members unemployed, among them the honest Sargent Dragon Ma. But they are used to form the police who are lead by the unpopular, rigid leader. In a distinguished bar, they capture a criminal, but Dragon quits due to corrupt politicians. Only after he meets a friend, the fat thief Fei, does he decide to steal the arms delivery to the pirates. Dragon even disguises himself as a distinguished gentleman and meets the pirate leader on an island, arresting them all with the help of the police. Together, they sail home.
With his 4th directorial work, the fun comedy "Project A", Jackie Chan achieved his creative Zenith, as well as one of his greatest and most complete films, which also proved to be a box office hit. The story, which is just a facade for good vs. evil fights, suffers from a lingering start, but when the martial arts sequences start some 20 minutes into the film, for Chan typically virtuoso crafted, they bring down the house and begin a hilarious action fun. In his first scene, Chan's character Dragon jumps from a bicycle which continues to drive to the parking barrier all by itself, whereas the bicycles play a big role later on, in a great chase sequence in the middle of the film, especially when Dragon passes by a wooden window, knocks on it and then the tenant opens it and hits Dragon's persecutor who was chasing him. Among the spectacular moments is also the one where the policemen throw people and sofas in the air during a fight, but the passive scenes during their drill-training are also neat (as a punishment, two of the recruits have to repeat their comment about attractive women a 1,000 times, so Dragon slaps him during the night to finally shut up). The clock tower sequence, involving the "impossible" stunt where Chan falls some 30 ft to the ground, is the highlight of this simple, thoroughbred style, while also giving his friend Sammo Hung an amusing role of a sidekick. The Asian cinema has a different approach than the American cinema, ignoring the typical 3-act structure: here, for instance, the main plot against the pirates doesn't start until almost an hour into the film, yet it doesn't matter when there are so many inspired ideas. It maybe a slightly obvious attribute, but "Project A" is really close to deserve grade A.