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Jackie Chan's Project A 2

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // May 20, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted May 30, 2003 | E-mail the Author
The first Project A (1983) was a film Jackie Chan needed to make. Although an established name with success, as audiences interests in martial arts films changed his career was on the fast track to nowhere and he needed to define himself in order to ensure his survival as a bankable star. So, he made a film, Project A, that was really his vision and it afforded him the clout to make his groundbreaking Police Story which solidified him as the top star in Asia for many years to come. Fresh on the heels of his new success he made Project A Part 2 (1987) and despite being a sequel, Jackie's newfound fame and freedom ensured that it would try to rival its predecessor in terms of comedy, action, and spectacle.

The basic plot starts where the first film leaves off, Dragon Mao (Jackie Chan) has defeated the band of pirates and has risen to become a star officer. He is assigned to investigate police corruption in a rotten district. Along the way the remaining pirates swear revenge against him, he falls in with some revolutionaries (Rosamund Kwan and Maggie Cheung), tries to clean up locale gangsters, and is framed. But, really, the plot is only he thin skeleton to hang various comedy and action sequences, and Chan delivers.

Project A Part 2 comes from the Golden Age of Jackie Chan. This is the time when he was huge and fast becoming a legend. Sure, his ego was getting some good inflating, but he was a star who always wanted to entertain. He wasn't breaking his bones and putting his stuntmen through torture because he personally liked it but because he knew that is what his audiences wanted and was going to deliver whether it meant he broke his back or not. So, unlike these days when Chan's body is worn down from those years of abuse and he has nothing to prove anymore, Project A Part 2 is from his pinnacle as a performer, thus serving as a prime example of his psychical talents when they were at their peak. Though, honestly you can tell he was probably playing it a tad safer than usual due to nearly dying making his previous film Amour of God.

In a sense, because of its period setting and fairly even balance between comedic scenes and action, as well as Chans use of large sets and numerous extras, you could see the film as his primer for making Miracles. Chans love of Buster Keaton is very apparent, including an homage to Steamboat Bill Jr. Keaton's sense of building suspense wasn't lost on Chan, and it seems every action sequence is designed with that very thought in mind, as the film progresses they get better and better, reaching a rousing finale. Much of the comedy is all farcical, including an extended sequence involving pirates, cops, and hostages, a silly hide-and-go-seek that, while tiring, the actors seem to really enjoy.

The most noticeable be thing about is sequel is that is lacks Chan's co-stars/collaborators of the first film, the great Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, so much of the charm is lost without them. It takes awhile to get going and Chan seems to forget to reel in the audience with a rollicking opener, but once it does the action and farce mounts up to one of the better films in his resume, just not up to the likes of the original film that preceded it.

The DVD: Beuna Vista

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Well, the likes of UK's Hong Kong Legends have really set the bar high for HK film transfers. They have shown what you can do when you care, whereas Beuna Vista shows the less care, "lets just put it out there because we own it" syndrome. While it is okay enough, and certainly looks more pleasing than the bootleg I first saw the film on and the HK DVD's, it is still a lackluster print. That said, it is marred by softness and spots, but worst of all some bad wear and tear "flicker" in a few scenes. Such things would be acceptable back in the older days when cruddy HK prints were all you could find, but there is little excuse when guys like HK Legends clearly are able to show a little tender love and care to the prints and clean them up for DVD transfer. This transfer is just another lackluster one, taking the poor materials they got, and didnt bother to clean them up or get anything better.

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. English Dub Only. Here is another case of the company just not caring. After acquiring the bulk of Jackie Chan and Jet Li's film catalog, Beuna Vista has always explained that their audience doesn't want the original language tracks and instead insist on poor English dubs only. This is simply not true, HK junkies clearly always prefer original language tracks. And, even if it were true, in the age of DVD there is absolutely no reason other than Beuna Vistas bullheaded desire to Americanize their foreign acquisitions that they couldnt slap an extra track of the Cantonese language track onto the DVD- they certainly have the space, after all you don't even get any damn extras. That said, the track is okay, one of the non-Chan dubs with a voice actor doing his lines. Still considering the lameness of the dub and weakness of the soundtrack, its a bit of a waste of a surround mix.

Extras: Chapter Selections--- Trailers for a couple of other direct-to-video looking Beuna Vista action titles, but no Project A 2 trailer.

Conclusion: Well, if you give a damn about foreign film or maximizing the potential of your DVD's, you can forget about buying an expensive spotty transfer that doesn't include the option of the films original language. This is just a rental for the curious Chan fan who doesn't have access to the wealth of other region editions of his HK film catalog.

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