Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Project A
Director: Jackie Chan
Year 1983
Project A is a rip-roaring thrill ride set in late 19th Century Hong Kong that showcases the astounding talents of Jackie Chan and his close knit crew of friends. The scope and epic nature of this film is through the roof, as we’re witness to some of Chan’s most dangerous and awe-inspiring stunts. With a tongue and cheek tone, and enough action set-pieces to make your mouth water, Project A is an outstanding film that proves without a shadow of a doubt that Jackie Chan really is a force to be reckoned with.
The film follows a young coast guard officer named Dragon Ma, who along with his fellow officers and a few friends must take down a gang of pirates and the corrupt government officials that allow them to continue their reign of terror on the sea. Bound to duty and the respect of his country, Dragon does everything in his power in order to severe the ties that these scrupulous characters share, even going as far as to infiltrating the pirates’ lair and leading an attack on their secret hideaway. With a fevered pace, Project A is an entertaining masterpiece that succeeds on all levels.

Jackie Chan plays the role of Dragon Ma, the duty bound and hot tempered Coast Guard officer that has enough tricks up his sleeves to open up his own circus act. Jackie wows in the role of Dragon, delighting in the over the top nature of his character’s personality and abilities. There are so many death-defying moments in this film and Chan takes them on in such a carefree manner on screen. His movements and theatrical mannerisms that he’s perfected over the years, have reached paralleled heights, and we’re given a plethora of moments that simply wow the senses. We witness him shimmying up a flagpole, scaling a towering wall, and of course there are the intricately choreographed action sequences that show Jackie fighting like a madman. What’s also nice about this certain role and time period, is that Jackie is able to pay homage to the films of Buster Keaton and Henry Lloyd, two of his cinema idols. It’s quite apparent that Project A is a passion project for the intrepid filmmaker and the painstaking efforts that he went through in order to make this film what it is, is exceptionally represented by the quality of the end product. The blend of comedy and action in this film hits a perfect mix, allowing for the overall fun of the movie to stand in the lime light. Both as director and star of the film, Jackie has done a wonderful job in creating a film that is both memorable and timeless in its efforts to entertain.
Not withstanding Jackie’s amazing portrayal of Dragon, there are a string of memorable characters in this film that bring it fully to life. The most important of these are the ones played by Sammo Hung and Biao Yuen. Sammo plays the role of Fei, a mischievous thief that gets tangled up in Dragon’s pursuit in taking down the pirates. He gives an outstanding performance that both allow him to show of his excellent comedic timing and his unparalleled martial arts skills. Like Jackie, Sammo loves mixing comedy with martial arts, and his own take on this combination works wonders on the film. Biao Yuen plays the role of Captain Tzu, a superior to Jackie’s character that has a run-in with him at a local bar, which results in a wild brawl that has to be seen to be believed. Yuen relishes in showing off his skill in this film, giving those trademark acrobatic moves that he’s known for a healthy workout. I’ve always been a fan of Yuen’s and this film first captured my attention on his amazing abilities and charismatic screen presence.
Both Sammo Hung and Biao Yuen attended the same Opera School, the China Drama Academy, that Jackie Chan did, and their friendship blossomed out into the film world when they began to make it big in the Hong Kong film industry. Project A would be their first official collaboration, of many, and it marks the starting point when their tremendous union truly started to scorch up the screens. It seemed as if the stars aligned for this production, because after facing failure on U.S. shores, Jacke was determined to come back and create a film that would truly kick the public upside the head and force them to take notice. Project A was that wake-up call and it was the bridge that spanned his earlier career of old school masterworks to his more personal take on the genre with his intricately choreographed action set-pieces and core focused stunt work. In effect, this brought the three friends together and started a budding cinematic relationship that would later bring us such wonderful films as Wheels on Meals, My Lucky Stars, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, and Dragons Forever.

Project A also has an abundance of spectacular moments that both shock and awe the audience into an action-oriented frenzy. There are so many to list, but I’ll narrow them down to a few key instances that really emphasize the sheer audacity of their wonderment. One of the most memorable moments of the film would have to be the bicycle chase. This mesmerizing sequence of events shows an on the run Dragon, played by Jackie, as he tries to escape from his pursuers on a bicycle through the narrow streets of a downtown marketplace. The choreography and timing of these shots are downright amazing, highlighting the creative ideas that the crew was able to come up with in order to make a highly entertaining set of sequences flow from one shot to the next. Jackie bobs and weaves through the alleyways doing trick after trick in order to stop his attackers in their tracks. He even goes as far as to use his bicycle as a weapon, swinging it around in a wild fashion as he takes the bad guys out. What is even more impressive about this scene is that comedy is strewn throughout its run time, yet it never feels like a tacked on aspect of the sequence. Every comedic action melds perfectly with the tempo of the scene, making for a fast paced set-piece that feels wholly organic and free flowing.
Another memorable moment of this film is the clock tower sequence, which starts out with Jackie being handcuffed to a flagpole and then shimmying his way up to the top in order to leap to safety and find cover inside a clock tower. Needless to say a tremendous fight sequence unfolds within the tower that uses the environment of the inner workings of the clock to establish some rather creative springboards for Jackie to perform his various stunts and fight work off of. What is most impressive about this elongated sequence is that it eventually leads us outside of the tower and smack dab in front of the giant clock face that stands at least 50 feet from the ground. Jackie hangs precariously from the hands of the clock as he holds on for dear life, only to finally slip and fall sending him crashing through a series of canopies until he lands not so delicately on the ground below. The sequence is an outstanding homage to the famous scene in Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! film, where Harold finds himself in a very similar situation. It’s unmistakably classy and Jackie does a commendable job in capturing the moment, while adding his own personal style to the familiar scene. Project A is chock full of these kinds of moments, not including the amazing fight sequences that liter this film’s narrative, so there really is a great deal of substance to this piece of work. When it comes to the complete package in both entertainment and action packed value, Jackie Chan and his productions are always a safe bet and this film is no exception.

Project A is a perfectly crafted film that balances its comedic and action oriented moments sublimely. Jackie’s acting and directing are seamlessly presented in this flick and the end result is something of a modern marvel. The inclusion and introduction to the legendary 3 Brothers series of collaborations, that featured Jackie, Sammo, and Biao, is an added treat that really gives the audience a glimpse of things to come in their cinematic futures. The film also has no lack in memorable moments, often feeling overwhelming with its abundance of action set-pieces and outstandingly choreographed moments. Both the bicycle chase and the clock tower sequence are portions of this film that will never be forgotten in the memories of all that have witnessed them and cherish them.
For such a tremendously enjoyable film, it probably seemed impossible for Jackie Chan’s star not to rise, even if his attempt to break into the Hollywood system didn’t go over so well at the time. In my opinion it was those confidence-crushing moments that made Jackie a better filmmaker than he ever would have been, because it gave him the motivation to come back even stronger the next time just to prove that he could accomplish the impossible. Project A proves that fact and you really can’t deny the power and spectacle of this film. Every time I witness it, I’m taken aback on how seamless the presentation is and how daring the execution really was. I’ve been mulling over what the A in Project A stands for and I think I’ve finally figured it out. The new title of this flick will be…..  

Lets get shit faced!

Yuen refuses to pull Jackie's finger and fall for the old fart joke.

Shit's about to go down!

Sammo you little sneak.

Don't drop the soap boys.

Respect my authority!

Look out below!

Jackie don't feel bad. I'll get you a matching bowtie later. Ok?

Check out this weirdo.

How about a nice Hawaiian punch?

Jackie get down from there you little monkey!

This is my mean face. Hurumph.

Quit making love to that pole you pervert and get down from there!

Jackie's about to lose it.

Sign this guy up for the Mr. Peanut biography. Uncanny.

Oh, I'm sorry Jackie. Are we boring you?

Dude, what's with the stache? Look who's talking.

Jackie get out from under there!

The dream team!

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