Made after his return to Hong Kong following his first unsuccessful foray into American movies, PROJECT A introduces the mature Jackie Chan, moving away from martial arts period pieces to (relatively) modern action thrillers with large doses of slapstick comedy.
Hong Kong at the end of the 19th century. There is enmity between the Coast Guard and the police, who feel that the Coast Guard's expensive failure to capture a gang of murderous pirates has drained needed funds that could be better used to combat street crime. Tensions explode at a local bar, and
although sailor Dragon Mao (Jackie Chan) tries to stop the brawl, he is pulled into it by arrogant police Inspector Tzu (Yuen Biao).
On the verge of commencing "Project A," a top-secret all-out offensive against the pirates, the Coast Guard ships are destroyed in explosions-- someone tipped off the pirates. Furious, the British governor disbands the Coast Guard and reassigns the sailors to police duty under Inspector Tzu.
Although Tzu subjects his new men to rigorous training, they come to respect each other.
On his first assignment, to arrest a notorious gangster at a swank nightclub, Dragon proceeds with less than the proper amount of diplomacy. Ordered to apologize to the club's owner, a man he knows to be harboring gangsters, Dragon instead resigns. With the help of his childhood friend, Fei (Sammo
Hung), a conniving thief, Dragon tries to break up an operation to sell 100 stolen rifles to the pirates. But his plan backfires, and he becomes wanted by the police.
When a visiting British admiral and his party are captured by the pirates, Dragon overhears the governor making a deal with a crooked arms dealer to trade money and guns for the hostages. Dragon berates the governor for putting his own career ahead of the lives of Chinese citizens who will be
killed by the pirates. Shamed, the governor puts Dragon in charge of the rescue mission.
Accompanied by Fei, who smells lots of loot, Dragon disguises himself as the arms dealer in order to get into the pirates' secret lair. Although he initially gains the trust of pirate leader Lo (Dick Wei), his cover is soon blown. But with the aid of Fei and Inspector Tzu, Dragon battles the
pirates, frees their hostages, and destroys their lair.
Though the film's plot is almost impossible to follow in the English-dubbed version, it hardly matters; PROJECT A is so loaded with frantic action that the plot does little more than give the audience breathing room. Within five minutes, there is a comic barroom fight scene that would have been
the high point of any of the John Wayne movies that inspired it. PROJECT A peaks about halfway through, with a long chase on foot and bicycle that is a marvel of invention. Though the film suffers in most home-video versions by either being pan-and-scanned or dubbed (or both), the one advantage
one has in viewing it on video is that one can study in detail Chan's incredible stunt set pieces. In a film filled with astonishing moments, the most memorable has Chan falling from the roof of a clock tower through two awnings and onto the pavement--head first!
Fully in charge, Chan surrounds himself with old friends and familiar faces. Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, former students at the Peking Opera school where Chan was raised, appear in this, the first of a hugely successful series of films co-starring the trio of childhood chums. And Dick Wei nearly
steals the film's final scenes as the tattooed, long-haired pirate leader, who lacks only an eyepatch and parrot on his shoulder. (Violence, nudity.)
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- Released: 1983
- Rating: NR
- Review: Made after his return to Hong Kong following his first unsuccessful foray into American movies, PROJECT A introduces the mature Jackie Chan, moving away from martial arts period pieces to (relatively) modern action thrillers with large doses of slapstick c… (more)