Making their debut on Blu-ray in the UK, from magnificent 2K restorations, two of Jackie Chan’s most entertaining action films arrive on 29th October 2018, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment! Starring and directed by Jackie Chan, the “Project A” films combined some of his most comical and daring homages to his heroes from the “silent movie” era with breathless martial arts choreography.
Action superstar Jackie Chan takes the lead of Hong Kong Coastguard officer “Sergeant Dragon Ma Yue Lung”. For the first movie he is joined by two of his equally legendary Chinese opera brothers and friends. Sammo Hung stars as “Zhuo Yifei”, a former friend of Ma’s who now wheels and deals on the wrong side of the law, and Yuen Biao plays “Inspector Hong Tin-Tzu”, Ma’s rival in the police force.
Action actor Dick Wei plays the villainous Pirate Chief “Lor Sam Pau”. Although this was one of his best roles, he will be a familiar face to fans of kung fu films, having appeared in classics such as “The Prodigal Son”, “Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars”, “My Lucky Stars”, “Yes Madam/Police Assassins”, “Millionaires Express“, “Eastern Condors”, “Dragons Forever” and “Pedicab Driver”.
Project A Part II also featured a host of familiar faces in supporting roles. Best remembered for playing “May”, Jackie Chan’s long-suffering girlfriend in the “Police Story” movies Maggie Cheung co-starred as “Yesan/Maggie”. She has acquitted herself as both a respected dramatic and comedy actress, and as an action star, in films as diverse as “The Iceman Cometh”, “As Tears Go By”, “In the Mood for Love”, “Moon Warriors”, “The Heroic Trio” and “Hero”. Another of Jackie’s regular co-stars is Bill Tung in a familiar role as “Chief Inspector Tung”. Jet Li’s co-star from the “Once Upon a Time in China” films, Rosamund Kwan plays “Miss Pak”. She had previously starred alongside Jackie Chan in “Armour of God”.
Taiwanese actor David Lam Wai plays “Superintendent Chun”. Having started in bit part roles at Shaw Brothers studios, he established himself as a lead actor, featuring in numerous crime, action, and gangster films throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. He has appeared in “Yes Madam/Police Assassins”, “A Chinese Ghost Story” and “Royal Warriors”.
A real-life martial artist with underworld connections, Michael Chan Wai-man plays the gangster “Tiger Ow”. With nearly 200 credits to his name he has appeared in Jackie Chan’s “Dragon Lord”, as well as the “Young and Dangerous” Triad movies, Brandon Lee‘s “Legacy of Rage”, Donnie Yen‘s “Chasing the Dragon”, and the comedy film “Gallants”.
Hong Kong actress Carina Lau plays “Carina”. She has had a long and varied career starring in films such as “Armour of God”, “Days of Being Wild”, “She Shoots Straight”, “The Banquet” and “Ashes of Time”. In recent years Lau played “Empress Wu” in Tsui Hark’s “Detective Dee” movies, for which she won a Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress.
Project A (1983): Under the rule of the British, late Qing Dynasty Hong Kong is a major port. This rich source of international trade becomes a target for a gang of ruthless pirates who hide out-of-sight of the coast guard in their cave lair. With the situation becoming increasingly political, the rival agencies of the navy and the police must join forces to stop the pirates once and for all. Sergeant Dragon Ma and his opposite number in the police, Inspector Hong Tin-Tzu, form an unlikely alliance with Zhuo Yifei, a thief and hustler, to infiltrate the Hong Kong based gangsters who will lead them to the pirates’ secret hideout.
Project A Part II (1987): Following straight on from the previous film, Sergeant Dragon Ma is assigned to the Sai Wan police district to investigate Superintendent Chun. Chun is suspected of staging arrests to bolster his impressive record, whilst allowing Tiger, a local gangster, to run his gambling dens and other illegal businesses. During his investigations, Dragon Ma meets Yesan and her cousin Carina at a teahouse, where they are selling flowers to raise funds for the Chinese revolutionaries led by Dr Sun Yat-sen. Having confronted and arrested Tiger and his gang, Dragon Ma is put in charge of the Governor’s security for a birthday ball he is throwing for his adopted daughter. After the ball, Carina is kidnapped by agents of the Empress Dowager, who opposes Sun Yat-sen. Dragon must rescue Carina whilst evading corrupt police, Imperial agents, anti-Manchu revolutionaries, pro-Manchu loyalists, gangsters and axe-wielding pirates looking for revenge after the events of the first film!
It’s no exaggeration to state that the Project A films feature some of Jackie Chan’s most entertaining action sequences in his long and illustrious career. The first movie benefits from having the “Holy Trinity” of the famous “Three Dragons”, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, performing at possibly the height of their powers. 1983 marked a turning point in all their careers as they actively started to venture away from what could be considered “traditional” kung fu films, and diversify into contemporary style action and stunts. The same year’s “Winners and Sinners” saw the three of themteam up and lay the foundations for their later collaborations on films such as The “Lucky Stars” series, “Wheels on Meals” and “Dragons Forever”.
Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung Team Up
In the first “Project A”, the transition takes place right before our eyes with the fight scenes mixing traditional kung fu and opera skills with a flashier, more brawling style. When Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung team up to fight a horde of gangsters in a teahouse, they demonstrate the incredible rhythm and timing they developed in their years training together in Chinese Opera. A more modern style is incorporated in scenes such as the excellent bar brawl between Chan’s coastguards and Biao’s police constables.
Despite the presence of Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, this is first and foremost a Jackie Chan film and he takes (literally) great pains to pay tribute to his heroes from the silent era of movies. Fans of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd will instantly recognise Jackie’s riffs on some of their most famous stunts. Even before you get to the outtakes, the editing of the now famous “Clock Tower” scene illustrate just how dangerous and potentially career-ending the stunts performed by Jackie Chan can be.
Clock Tower Stunt
Aside from the exhilaration that the action scenes provide, they are also hugely entertaining. The bicycle chase still makes me laugh out loud to this day, with celebrity cult movie fan Jonathan Ross declaring it as the single most funny scene he has ever watched.
The finale with Dick Wei and his pirates features the cream of what would become the respective Jackie Chan and the Sammo Hung Stunt Teams, going toe-to-toe with our three heroes. Many of the stunt performers had worked with the leads for several years, or were themselves once members of the same Chinese opera school. It allows for some incredible pacing, timing and acrobatics within the fight choreography, which is what made Chan’s, Hung’s and Biao’s work so special.
With the absence of his two opera brothers in the second movie, the focus undeniably shifts to Chan’s slapstick stunt and chase sequences. The entertainment quota is kept high and the silent comedy style chases and tributes still feature heavily. In the years since the first film, Jackie had scored huge hits at the box office with films such as “Police Story” and “Armour of God”. Although there are still some great martial arts fights in this sequel, there is an increased use of props and the surrounding environment, an approach that had proved so popular in his other movies.
There are some incredibly painful-looking stunts performed by his team, not least when a gangster falls from a first floor balcony to land on his spine smashing a large vase in the process. Jackie is as inventive as ever and has a great comic sequence where he hides among some paintings in a darkened room. Especially entertaining is the chase sequence with an axe-wielding gang in which he is handcuffed to David Lam Wai. It also makes for some of the most entertaining outtakes too.
Aside from the great titles picked by Eureka for their Blu-ray releases, they always pack their discs with fabulous extras too. These are a mix of interviews with all the main stars and stuntmen and features from previous Hong Kong Legends releases and also some new interviews and archival interviews and features not previously seen on a UK release.
The new interviews with East Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns provide an academic insight into the production and release of both films. There are also alternate outtakes from the original Japanese version of “Project A” and some fascinating archival behind-the-scenes footage. Particularly interesting is a featurette made at the time called “Someone Will Know Me”, in which stuntmen Mars/Cheung Wing Fat, Chris Lee Kin-Sang and Rocky Lai give a candid view on their careers.
The Project A movies feature Jackie Chan at his swashbuckling best. They are both packed throughout with some of the most entertaining action sequences of his career that still thrill and amuse to this day. He really does harness the spirit of his silent movie heroes such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin, to deliver comic stunts and action with universal appeal. Even my own children and my mum laugh and gasp at his antics in these particular films!
As with the other restored releases from Eureka, these films have never looked better. The period sets and costumes are all beautifully rendered in high definition, accompanied by a host of original and remastered audio options. The extra features and interviews add to those that already existed on the old Hong Kong Legends release and provide a fascinating insight in to the dedicated hard work that went into bringing the exemplary action to the screen.
The “Project A” films set a new benchmark and template for Jackie Chan’s style of action, comedy and stunts that would endure to this day. Just like the Police Story Blu ray Box Set that preceded it, this is an absolutely essential purchase for action fans!
- The Clock Tower stunt in “Project A” was inspired by a similar scene in Harold Lloyd’s 1923 movie “Safety Last”, one of Jackie Chan’s favourite films as a youngster. The stunt in “Project A Part II” where the house frontage falls down is an homage to the 1928 silent film “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”, which starred Jackie Chan’s hero Buster Keaton.
- Jackie Chan did the stunt scene at the clock tower three times.
- In “Project A Part II”, the peppers that Jackie Chan chews on and later rubs in the eyes of the attackers were real. The prop department were supposed to make up fake peppers, but weren’t able to complete them in time for the shoot.
- Upon release, “Project A” grossed HK$14 million in two weeks, which was a new record at the time for a Hong Kong movie.
- Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao did not appear in the “Project A” sequel because they were shooting the film “Eastern Condors“.
- The first film was originally going to be titled “Pirate Patrol”, but it was feared that once announced, other Hong Kong film producers would rush to copy and release movies featuring pirates, so the more vague “Project A” was chosen.
- Jackie Chan won Best Action Choreography for “Project A” and “Project A Part II” at the 1985 and 1988 Hong Kong Film Awards respectively.
- “You have two choices pal. You can say you are sorry, or….” – Sergeant Dragon Ma (after Inspector Hong pours a drink over his head.)
- “I won’t say sorry. I choose the second one” – Inspector Hong (in reply initiating the bar brawl!)
- “Look at that chick! She’s got a crazy figure!” – A Coastguard Drill Song!
- “Do you think I’m really that stupid?” – Sergeant Dragon Ma
- “No, but that’s a real grenade.” – Big Mouth
Project A Part II:
- “Dragon Ma, didn’t anyone tell you you’re dead?” – Tiger
- “One day I’ll die for sure, like everybody else. In the meantime, you’re under arrest.” – Dragon Ma
- “Stop there. Do you know who he is?” – Dragon Ma
- “I’m a Superintendent.” – Superintendent Chun
- “We don’t give a s**t!” – Axe Gang
Film Rating: 10/10
The “Project A” & “Project A Part II” Box Set releases on Blu-ray from 29th October 2018 courtesy of Eureka Classics! You can also order your copy via Amazon. Enjoying these newly restored classics (Jet Li’s “Once Upon a Time in China” Trilogy is also on the way); which other martial arts flicks would you LOVE to see get the same treatment? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram. (Whether you’re into old school classics or excited about the FUture, we’ve got you covered!)