Genre: Martial Arts and Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.
Release Date: September 14th, 1999 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jackie Chan Actors: Jackie Chan, Alan Tam, Rosamund Kwan, Lola Forner, Bozidar Smiljanic, Ken Boyle, John Ladalski
rarity for a Jackie Chan picture, the opening moments feature a topless woman about to be ritually sacrificed by African natives. Curiously, his goal isn’t even to save the girl; instead, he has snuck into the midst of the ancient village to steal a sword (King Arthur’s weapon during the crusades) embedded in a religious statue. Although he purloins the item, his getaway is tinged with comedy, particularly when he knocks the head off the golem and must then pretend to be a god incarnate. Moments later, he slides down a hillside and into a waiting plane – not terribly unlike Indiana Jones’ escape tactics in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Jackie is now a soldier of fortune, having previously quit being part of a singing group. Currently known as Asian Hawk, he’s acquired many of the world’s greatest antiquities, using skills that will come in handy when a group of villains (looking conspicuously like vampire monks) wish to locate the two remaining missing pieces (of five) of the Armor of God. To convince the adventurer to help, these black-cloaked rogues plot to kidnap Jackie’s former girlfriend, Lorelei (Rosamund Kwan) – which requires storming a concert with machine guns, overtaking a smattering of security officers, and slapping Lorelei in the face a few times.
Two additional details are also notably unusual for a Jackie Chan film. Firstly, Chan is a little crooked – especially when he not only finds ancient artifacts to sell to the highest bidder, but also when he has an accomplice place fake bids on the auctions to boost the price. Secondly, there are more instances of violence than expected – and not just during battles or shootouts. When Lorelei is taken, a random photographer pauses to snap some pictures of murdered guards – only to have his eye shot out by gunfire and his body dotted by bursts of crimson blood through his white shirt. It’s almost as if Chan is purposely trying to give this film a harder edge – maybe to distinguish it from the general silliness expected from his brand of action comedy.
For comic relief, Chan partners with former bandmate Alan (Alan Tam) to meet with art collector Bannon (Bozidar Smiljanic), who holds a piece or two of the Armor of God. If they can steal them, perhaps that will satisfy the kidnappers – and then, maybe they can steal the complete set right back. Along the way, they’ll have to pick up an attractive young woman (Bannon’s daughter, May, played by Lola Forner [or Porner, as it’s spelled in the credits]), contend with excessive amounts of luggage, avoid eating spoiled cheese, and deal with speeding tickets. Plus, there’s bound to be goons to fight.
Thankfully, the film does include plenty of hand-to-hand melees, which are, of course, choreographed with more humor than severity. For good measure, a destructive car chase also makes an appearance (though the continuity in many scene transitions is noticeably off, and things tend to explode for no reason). All around, the stunts are exhilarating and the action is non-stop. Clearly patterned on Indiana Jones’ exploits, “Operation Condor 2” (which was originally titled “Armour of the Gods” and isn’t a sequel), features cultists, a hint of fantasy (here, in the form of a mind-control serum, which no one questions, even after double-crosses take place), light romance (when Jackie tries to distract May by seducing her, the scene cuts away to the following morning, making their time together incredibly ambiguous), comic infiltration tactics (something that occurs frequently in Chan’s pictures), and historical entanglements (in the form of legends). The finale in the maze-like cave-monastery becomes the show’s greatest accomplishment, boasting a foursome of high-heeled female martial artists and a vest of dynamite with some hilariously unpredictable fuses, resulting in painful stunts and oodles of havoc (and a closing hot-air-balloon set piece that segues into outtakes and Chan himself singing the song “High Up, On High”).
– Mike Massie