Monday, 27 October 2014
Project A (1983)
Where the Once Upon A Time in China series are action/drama films with some ill-fitting comedy sequences, this is a flat-out action/comedy of the sort that would lead to Jackie Chan becoming a huge star in Hong Kong, and then throughout the world. If you've ever seen a Chan film, you know more or less what to expect: imaginative and highly choreographed fight scenes with a broad, slapstick sense of humour and frequent uses of every day items - chairs, tables, and whatever else might be found in the area - as props and weapons.
Those comedic kung fu action sequences are really the selling point of Chan's films, with the plot just proving an excuse for everyone to get up to wacky martial arts hijinks. Project A delivers pretty well on its core attraction. There's a particularly fun bicycle chase/fight near the middle of the film that I think is the stand-out set piece, but the action rarely slacks for long and is almost always infused with a healthy measure of physical comedy.
Ultimately then, the plot of the film is just a frame work for delivering the many, many action sequences. Still, it's serviceable enough: Chan plays a member of the Hong Kong coast guard during the age of pirates (the movie is not specific about the exact year). The coast guard's not doing so well at its job, leading to a fierce rivalry with the police, who think the naval organisation is a waste of money. This rivalry dominates the first half of the film, giving plenty of opportunities for each side to (try to) one-up the other.
The main plot finally gets rolling when Chan's character quits the force due to rising frustration with the bureaucratic meddling that prevents him from actually catching bad guys. This brings him into direct conflict with the hired goons of local businessman Chau, who is working with the pirates, as well as into a reluctant partnership with Fei, a friend/rival with a larcenous streak. Much mayhem will ensue before the climactic battle with the pirates can finally unfold.
There's nothing terribly deep or complex about Project A, but there's not trying to be. If you've enjoyed other Chan films, you'll like this one. If you've never seen one ... well, if you imagine the physical comedy of the old silent films (such as those of Buster Keaton), mixed in with martial arts, you should have a rough idea of what to expect.
I had a fun hour and a half with this.