Operation Condor


Viewed – 03 April 2021 Blu-ray

Armour of God II

I’ve been a fan of Jackie Chan for years. Recently I’ve been collecting some of his movies newly released on Blu-ray. However I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed by certain movies that seem more about knockabout comedy and story than the action and stunt work that’s made him famous. However this release from 1991, a follow up to his famed Amour of God – feels to me like the definitive Chan experience. Chan plays adventurer ‘Condor’ who is given the job of travelling to the African desert to locate some buried gold left over from World War II. Along the way he gathers a trio of female friends who aid him in his mission, followed by murderous thugs out to steel the gold for themselves.

The story is nothing special and kind of nonsensical at times but it’s the pacing and energy that grabbed me. It jumps quickly from chases to fights to stunts to a climactic battle in an underground base, with barely a breather. Add to this Chan’s usual brand of character comedy, fun dialogue, awkwardness and slapstick … and this was just a riot of fun. This time the story, comedy and action all feel intertwined perfectly with no one element out staying it’s welcome. The three actresses making up Chan’s fellow adventurers all had their own personalities and were a lot of fun. Sometimes Chan comes off as a bit of a womaniser but no more than a dozen Bond movies – which this clearly borrows from along with obviously Indiana Jones.

The climactic fight in the underground base is classic Chan and features some of his best work – especially the sequence inside a wind tunnel. Fantastic stuff. One of Chan’s most consistently entertaining movies.

The Blu-ray I picked up from 88 Films is probably the best the movie has ever looked, boasting a new 2k restoration. There are two cuts of the movie here, the Hong Kong theatrical cut with a soundtrack in either 2.0 Cantonese or original mono dubbed. This version also has a commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Mike Leeder and film maker Arne Venema. I watched the extended cut which is only available in Cantonese with subtitles. There is also a trailer and an interview with martial artists Bruce Fontaine. Unlike other 88 Films releases there’s no booklet but otherwise this is pretty decent.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recomended

(The Blu-ray) Recommended

The Young Master


Viewed – 22 February 2021 Blu-ray

Hong Kong Theatrical Cut

It’s strange how one remembers some movies. It turns out this is a completely different movie than what I thought I’d watched a numbers of years back. That movie was Dragon Lord and not this 1980 break-out hit for Jackie Chan and his first with studio Golden Harvest. Despite my mistaken identity I chose to settle into this regardless. Chan plays a martial arts student who’s school is involved in a Chinese dragon dance contest and loses when his brother fakes an injury only to join the rival school and win the contest. Disgraced by his former master, Chan’s brother is outcast. Chan himself whilst attempting to locate his brother gets mistaken for a man who helps free a local criminal and has to prove his innocence. This leads on to a final confrontation with said criminal who turns out to be a martial arts master.

fight through the pain…

The story is rather convoluted, feeling patched together, like how scenes can follow on from one another and feel unconnected like there are bits missing. Yet coming to this I wasn’t expecting a great story, but was hoping for good action … and well, in this respect the movie delivers. There’s a decent bunch of kung-fu encounters, including a fun fight involving benches, a street brawl with Chan disguised as an old man, and an extended final encounter that’s particularly exhilarating. The kung-fu is shot expertly too, brilliantly edited and with great camera work that showcases the skill on display. It’s of the dance-like style of fight choreography but I still appreciated it. Casting, with an appearance by Chan regular Yuen Biao (Wheels On Meals) is good too with a few recognisable faces, and Hwang In-shik as the main villain is one hell of a fighter. Just a shame the plot is so all of the the place, as an easier to follow story would have added a great deal of substance. As it stands, watch this for the brilliant martial arts on display, not so much the story.

This special edition release from 88 films comes in deluxe packaging, has a detailed booklet, a poster, art cards, specially commissioned cover art, and several versions of the movie – the ‘theatrical Hong Kong cut’, a slightly shorter ‘export cut’, and a third version called the ‘extended export cut’ – with restored 2k transfers, restored audio in dubbed English or original language with subtitles (the export cut is English dub only). Add to this plenty of extras, with interviews, featurettes, alternate scenes and two commentaries. Great stuff for collectors. Maybe not one of Chan’s best – but still worthwhile for kung-fu fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

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