Project A


Viewed – 23 February 2020. Blu-ray

For some reason in the nineties when I was heavily into Hong Kong Cinema and the movies of Jackie Chan, this famed 1983 outing passed me by, even though I caught the sequel. Sitting down to this now, in pristine HD on a great Blu-ray from the fine folks at Eureka … I was both impressed at the action and stunt work but left cold by a rather messy plot. Chan plays Dragon Ma, a coast guard captain during the turn of the century, who gets embroiled in a series of weapons thefts by invading pirates. Along with a police lieutenant (Yeun Biao) and a petty crook (Sammo Hung) Chan turns out to be the best choice to save the day.

The story is a bit naff, disjointed and complicated by Chan’s usual brand of bumbling, squabbling and slapstick, although it’s a treat to see him teamed with fellow kung-fu stars Hung & Biao. The stunt work is at times wince-inducing crazy (especially the famous clock tower fall) and the fights frantic and brilliantly choreographed … but when the structure and plotting is this poor, it can spoil the fun. Thankfully then production values, set design and costumes are all top-notch. Chan also proves likeable as is much of the colourful cast, and when the villain is revealed he’s also quite formidable. As ever there’s also plenty of often silent-comedy influenced comedy and although quaint is more hit than miss.

For fans this is certainly one to check out, and the action still impressed even if it’s not Chan’s best.

The blu-ray from Eureka boasts great image quality sourced from a new 2k restoration. It’s generally sharp and colours really pop. We get the soundtrack presented in its original mono Cantonese as well as 5.1 Dts HD Master Audio which proves effective even if surrounds are not really showcased. The movie is similarly available in dubbed English. Extras consist mainly of talking-head interviews with cast and crew, but Chan is absent although we do get Yeun Biao. There’s also outtakes (a highlight with any Jackie Chan movie) and deleted scenes. We also get a detailed booklet. No commentary is a disappointment but overall this is great treatment for one of Chan’s most famous if in my opinion slightly overrated movies.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Wheels On Meals


Viewed – 15 September 2019 Blu-ray

I make no secret that I’m a big fan of martial arts icon Jackie Chan and over the years I have enjoyed many of his movies. There’s just something endlessly likeable about him that I feel not even names like Jet Li, Donnie Yen or even Bruce Lee come close. So sitting down to this 1984 kung fu caper, I had mixed emotions as I recalled not being its biggest fan back in the day. However at the time I was OD’ing on all things Hong Kong Cinema. Chan, teamed with frequent collaborator Yeun Biao play two mobile restaurant vendors who work out of a tricked-out hot dog van, who both fall for the same mysterious girl. At the same time a rookie private detective (another frequent collaborator Sammo Hung) has been given the case of tracking down said girl, whilst also a gang of bad guys are out to kidnap her. A bit of mystery then ensues bringing the three guys together to save the day.

This focuses heavily on interplay between the main characters with plenty of comical word-play that lends comparisons to The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges, mixed with occasional action that throws in fights, a great car chase and a climactic series of encounters that make the long yet entertaining lead up well worth your patience. The inclusion of kick boxing champion Benny ‘the jet’ Urquidez is a particular highlight. Set unusually in what appears to be Spain the movie is filled with interesting locations and at times eye catching cinematography.

The overly-farcical nature of the plot, questionable depictions of mental patients and homeless people means it’s hard to get truly invested. Also Chan’s brand of stunt-work and Kung fu mostly takes a back seat … but its all done with such charm and sense of fun, I still had a great time.

The blu-ray from Eureka Classics has a pleasing, if generally soft image quality that although at its best during night time set sequences, is generally clean throughout… that bright yellow van especially pops. The soundtrack is presented in original mono and 5.1 Cantonese along with dubbed English in both mono and 5.1. Extras consist of outtakes, trailers and a few worthwhile interviews with key cast members. Not exhaustive but we do also get a detailed booklet with an essay by James Oliver. Solid treatment for what is for me a bit of a forgotten classic.

verdict:

(the movie) 3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5

Police Story 2


Viewed – 16 August 2019. Blu-ray

I don’t think you can really go wrong with a Jackie Chan movie. Over several decades the kung fu star has perfected his brand of slapstick action-comedy which is showcased well in the long running Police Story series. This 1987 sequel to the now legendary original picks up shortly after the events of that movie and has Chan relegated to traffic duty. However the mobster from the last movie is out of prison on compassionate grounds following a terminal illness diagnosis and goes about harassing Chan and his girlfriend May (the lovely Maggie Cheung). Yet when a bomb scare at a shopping centre brings about a new threat to the city, Chan’s superiors call on him to help out again.

This movie isn’t quite as talked about as the original and it’s fairly clear to see why. It once again gets bogged down in investigative police procedure, mixed with Chan’s often quaint style of comedy which I’ll admit did bring a few chuckles. However this occasionally feels even more long-winded, with the subplot of the mobster seeking revenge needing to be significantly trimmed. Thankfully then when the action comes it’s still superb, lightening-fast, expertly choreographed and amazing to witness – if a bit low key compared to the last movie. Yet the playground fight especially is a stand out. The climax also boasts some impressive stunt work and a great, if brief fight against Hapkido expert Benny Lai.

Chan’s direction overall is slick. The camerawork, especially for its time is stylish and well, he totally understands how to present action in a way Hollywood failed to grasp for years. Just a shame a wafer-thin plot and too much padding stops this just short of another Chan classic.

The recent Blu-ray from Eureka Classics has a decent if slightly soft image quality, but the soundtrack is at least delivered in several options including a dubbed, subtitled mono and and all new subtitled 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. The movie also gets three cuts, the UK video version, the shorter and I’m guessing better-paced Hong Kong version as well as the full, uncut version I watched. I’d be interested in checking out these other versions I must admit. Extras consist of trailers, an episode of the ‘Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show’ hosted by Jonathan Ross, outtakes, an interview with Benny Lai as well as a commentary by stuntmen Miles Wood and Jude Poyer. The Blu-ray, as part of a deluxe set that also includes Police Story 1, also comes with a detailed booklet. Very impressive treatment overall for a still fun entry in Jackie Chan’s career thats worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3 /5

(the Blu-ray). 5 /5

The Foreigner


Viewed – 02 January 2018  Netflix

I used to be, and probably still am a big fan of Jackie Chan, and have at one time or another seen a great deal of his back catalogue.  In subsequent years I’ll admit he’s gone off my radar even though I realise he still makes movies.  Yet this latest caught my eye as it had been granted a cinema release at one stage and good word of mouth.  Chan plays Quan, a local Chinese restaurant owner living in London who unfortunately witnesses a bombing outside a shop where his daughter goes, leading to her death.  Vowing to track down those responsible, he soon latches onto Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) who’s former links to the IRA may prove invaluable.

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You could call it Chan’s version of all those copy-cat Liam Neeson thrillers we’ve seen of late and has echoes of Taken.  Chan may not be the most compelling of actors and his grasp of English is still hit and miss … but he’s a likeable presence and well, can still kick ass and defy gravity even in his sixties.  Pierce Brosnan however completely steals the show as a not so subtle take on former Sin Fein leader Gerry Adams, and his spot-on Northern Ireland accent brings a level of authenticity to proceedings.  Also it was interesting having the backdrop of the IRA troubles and director Martin Campbell (Golden Eye) delivers a realistic and thrilling movie with plenty of action and intrigue.

I’s a shame then that really, it hasn’t much going for it we haven’t seen dozens of times before.  It’s engaging and mostly well acted especially from Brosnan, but it’s sense of deja-vu mares what is otherwise a solid thriller, and one certainly more convincing and gritty that I’d normally expect from Chan.

Verdict:  3 /5

Big Trouble In Little China


Viewed – 04 April 2015  Blu-ray

I remember this being one of my favourite movies when growing up.  I watched it on VHS and subsequently on TV and picked it up on DVD, so naturally I was going to get the Blu-ray when it came out.  Telling the story of wise-cracking truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) who during a stop off at San Francisco China Town re-acquaints himself with old friend Wang (Dennis Dun).  Wang informs Jack that he’s meeting his new girlfriend at the airport.  However on going to collect her the duo witness a kidnapping and soon, along with the help of plucky reporter Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall – Mannequin, Sex & The City) head into the Chinese underworld on a rescue mission.

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This is an immediately fun, fast paced, albeit very 80’s experience.  Kurt Russell is on fine form; a little more bumbling than some of his other roles but it works a charm as the fish out of water in a whole heap of trouble.  Dunn, the actor who really should have become a bigger name than he did pretty much steals it though and Catrall is particularly beautiful, spunky and proves great support.  Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) this genre entry overflows with ideas, is a love letter to Hong Kong action movies with heavy influence from Shaw Brothers Kung Fu and more mystical fair like Tsui Hark’s Zu: Warriors Of The Magic Mountain, and it’s clear everyone involved must have had a ball making it.  Add to this Carpenter’s excellent guitar-synth score and well, this is a movie that just bleeds fun.

It’s all very cheesy, the dialogue and some of the jokes are as corny as it gets and some of the action in my opinion could have been shot better – and well, the pace is exhausting, where I was wishing the breaks were applied occasionally.  Yet with a great villain (genre favourite James Hong – Blade Runner, Wayne’s World 2) and some still great looking effects work … I got a kick out of watching this again.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is once again an above average treatment for a classic movie.  Detail on a whole is high even if the slightly smudgy look of the era is retained.  Faces and sets all display a depth with decent shadow detail and good clarity.  The re-mastered DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack may not make much use of the surrounds but the bass-heavy score is effectively delivered and dialogue is crisp throughout.  Extras-wise we get a pretty exhaustive selection with several interviews from cast and crew as well as a vintage featurette, music video, galleries, an extended ending and a feature-length commentary.  Add to this Arrow’s inclusion of a detailed booklet written by John Kenneth Muir, and this rounds off an impressive treatment for a still very enjoyable movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 5 /5