Project A (1983)
Project A (1983)

Genre: Martial Arts and Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: December 22nd, 1983 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jackie Chan Actors: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Biao Yuen, Dick Wei, Winnie Wong, Mars, Pa Tai, Hoi-San Kwan, Wai Wong

 


 

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here is no future in the costly sea battles against pirates (chiefly, the notorious Lo Sam Pau), which plague Hong Kong efforts. The navy’s admiral wishes to continue trying to round up instigators, but political opponents insist that it’s better to spend resources on ground forces, such as the police, who have been patiently awaiting a pay raise. One of the sailors ready to ship out, top navigator Master Sergeant Dragon Ma Yung (Jackie Chan), is burdened with the institution’s repeated failures. Their latest mission is to head toward Taiwan – and they’re not all expected to come back alive.

To make matters worse, a cocky police captain (Biao Yuen) and his officers pick a fight with Dragon and his men in a bar on the eve of departure. Although it does little for the story, it’s the first of many martial arts sequences that perfectly exemplifies Jackie Chan’s style of moviemaking. Deadly weapons are dropped in favor of hand-to-hand combat; music, emanating from directly within the scene, complements the kung fu; and humor is married with every punch and kick. Characters comically struggle to hide their pain when absorbing blows, or duck out of the way only to have an ally take a fist to the face. And props are utilized extensively – from furniture to improvised weaponry to beverages. It’s fast and furious, yet never cruel or gruesome.

When the navy’s only three “Project A” ships are burned down by conspiring gangsters (primarily Chan Ho, hiding out in the VIP Club), the seamen are sent to work with the regular cops. But corruption runs rampant among the police officials, who are quick to provide guns and protection to pirates flaunting money and influence. After Dragon quits over a sham arrest scenario, he partners with old pal “Fats” Fei (Sammo Hung) to steal from the mobsters, hoping to disrupt their schemes and expose the governmental traitors.

With all of the name variations, particularly in the translation and dubbing processes, it’s slightly confusing to sort out all of the characters and their affiliations. But the primary focus is on action sequences, and this film has no shortage (though it’s far from Chan’s best work, particularly in the elaborateness of the fight choreography). From a brief skirmish on rolling logs to a lengthier bike chase to a duel in a clocktower (which spoofs Harold Lloyd’s famous dangle from one of the hands, yet with a fall so brutal it’s shown twice, the second time without the aid of slow-motion), Chan’s flair for creative tussles knows no bounds. And the falls are tremendous; stunt men tumble down staircases, lunge from railings, and land heavily – and from the looks of these very real stunts, quite painfully – from incredibly high places.

There’s also a hint of a love story with Wendy (Winnie Wong), the admiral’s daughter. Things become even more complex when the corruption extends to an English colonel, who eventually enables Dragon to conduct covert operations against Lo Sam Pau, involving a hostage rescue that requires disguises, goofy passwords, and traipses through underground hideouts. With additional slapstick, verbal jokes, and corny distractions, the finale tends to be sillier than it is action-packed, even if rifles and knives cause more bodily destruction than before. The three-versus-one showdown, however, is thoroughly riveting, even if it’s short.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10