Project A II (1987)
Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch on 2009-12-14
Summary: "You don't have to have athlete's foot to be an athlete." Miss. Pak
Sequels are a capricious lot with most nowhere near the stature of the original. Sometimes you find a sequel that is considered better than the original, some critics (such as John Charles) have stated that Project A2 is better than the original, I disagree somewhat but this movie is still a worthwhile follow-up and fits well in the output of brilliant Hong Kong action cinema in the 1980s as well as Jackie's own oeuvre. I do wonder how with such an awesome release of great films that his later films were not as good. He only has directed two films in the 1990s and none past that, but he has had much clout in many of the films where he is not officially the director.

Earlier in 1987 Jackie had brain surgery following a disastrous fall in the filming of Armour of God. This encouraged him to work on his next film close to home. This did not encourage him to stop risking his life and his stunt team for our amusement. What resulted is a smash hit at home that eclipsed the original in box office tallies (31 million HK dollars compared to 19 million for the original).

Jackie Chan is once again police officer extraordinaire Dragon Ma and he is ordered to work with "Three Wan" Superintendent Chun (Lam Wai, Royal Warriors) who is the only Chinese police officer allowed to have a gun yet is thought to be staging arrests to make himself look better and ignoring the crimes of a triad lord named Tiger Au (Michael Chan Wai-Man, Dragon Lord). Apparently Chun has too much power to be taken down directly, but he is relieved of the Sai Wan district (now he is "Two Wan") which Dragon Ma takes over. This inefficient and corrupt office will soon get a makeover and there is a great scene where three officers, who do not know who they are dealing with, attempt to assault Ma to teach him a lesson about complaining about police officers. He soon has that district ship-shape and Tiger Au taken care of. The fight choreography and stunts with Tiger and his men are quite awesome. My favorite stunt was a beautifully brutal fall from the second floor into a large vase and that vase did not appear to be soft.

Meanwhile a couple of subplots are happening. There are pirates who have survived from the first film who are looking for revenge and food. Then there are revolutionaries including Maggie (Maggie Cheung, In The Mood For Love) and (Rosamund Kwan, Casino Raiders) who are trying to raise funds for Dr. Sun Yat-sen to overthrow the Qing Government as well as government operatives who are trying to find these rebels.* Throw in a mixture of corrupt Hong Kong and British Cops as well as legitimate ones and you have a stew that is getting a bit too many ingredients, but yet still seems to coalesce. This works well when there is a Marx Brothers influenced scene (the Marx Brothers have done this type of scene a few times with The Cocoanuts (1929) being the first) at Maggie's place where everyone is looking for someone while hiding from someone else. Many weeks were spent on this scene alone and the effort certainly shows.

There are several faults with the film. There is a certain didactic nature that creeps in the film that seems a bit out-of-place – especially one small speech towards the end that Jackie gives when dealing with the Mainland revolutionaries** and the extremely easy conversion of the pirates that survived from the first film. Female characters are once again underused and underappreciated, especially Maggie Cheung. I was not as satisfied with the continuance of the plot as much as the first film either. The individual scenes dominate my feelings for the film instead of thinking of this movie as a cohesive whole. I do not fault the film for not being able to have Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao like the first though (I have heard the main reason behind this was that those two were filming Eastern Condors, but I do wonder if Jackie could have waited a small while to get them to perform in this – they would work together for the last time the following year in Dragons Forever), but they are missed.

I found this to be quite an enjoyable and well-made film and it is rightfully regarded as one of the better comedic action films of the 1980s. This film is also quite good in a few unexpected places. The art direction is superb (Eddie Ma Poon-chiu), the costumes are exquisite, the cinematography is good and the movie looks quite authentic. But the stunts, comedy and the action is what I remember this film for. There is a chase involving a handcuffed Dragon and Chun that is superb (part of the axe throwing scene would be used in Shanghai Noon). The last twenty minutes is full of awe-inspiring hits, falls, chili-peppers as a mouth-mace (Jackie writes in his autobiography about how he used real peppers in this scene; you can see him in a lot of mouth pain during the outtakes at the end) and is a worthy conclusion to this movie. The most famous stunt from this sequence is his homage to Buster Keaton from Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) with the exception that there is no hole and only a weak section where his head pops through.

Fans of Jackie and/or Hong Kong action cinema should consider this a must own and watch. I certainly do.

I have two editions of this film the Dimension R1 and the Mega Star R0. The Dimension R1 is English Dub only (with many hilarious Aussie voices), has dubtitles, has a Golden Harvest title instead of Golden Way Films, is missing the beginning scenes from the first film (replaced by English titles and credits) and has a little bit cut from the early pirate scene (possibly other cuts but the running times are similar). To me the print does not seem that much better than the Mega Star release which I easily prefer over those two. The OOP R2 HKL release looks to be the best release out there with the ubiquitous Bey Logan commentary and several other extras not found elsewhere. Since it is OOP the prices tend to be a bit high though.

* If you were going to date this film it is important to know that the Empress Dowager who is mentioned in this movie died in 1908 and the assassination of Governor En-ming (not mentioned by name in the subtitles) and the Kiangsi/Kwangtung uprisings took place in December of 1906 so most likely the movie takes place in 1907 (information obtained from the book China's Republican Revolution: the case of Kwangtung, 1895-1913 (1975) by Edward J. M. Rhoads).

** It is interesting to compare these comments with Jackie's later actions and statements which are more situated to Chinese Mainland hegemony than with Hong Kong allegiance. The statement made by the Mainland revolutionary Ms. Pak slightly earlier in this scene "But this decaying colonial system…" certainly echoed the current countdown toward the handover. However, Jackie does a fine job of portraying the many ethnic groups fairly. For example, while there are the treacherous British, the Commissioner (Bozidar Smiljanic) is played as a solid individual and certainly cares for his daughter Regina (Regina Kent).
Reviewer Score: 8