Project A II

Reviewed by YTSL

At the risk of shocking, appalling and offending fans of Jackie Chan, I must admit that what made this (re)viewer's heart feel like it had skipped a beat over the course of that which quite a few people reckon is among the masochistic star's best works was:  Not his expected crazy stunts and usual well choreographed fights; but, instead, my first back-to-back and subsequent sighting of three of my favorite actresses (Carina Lau, Maggie Cheung and Rosamund Kwan) looking so young, fresh-faced and pretty.  There also is quite a bit of pleasure to be derived from seeing (now) familiar faces among the obvious main man's sidekicks and this 1987 film's lesser characters (I think this particularly about "Uncle" Bill Tung but also recognized the actor who plays someone named Mars here as well as in "Police Story" I, II and III).
Lam Wai, Jackie, Bill Tung, Kwan Hoi San and the Magster
Still, it is undeniably so that PROJECT A II is a Jackie Chan vehicle and, consequently, a movie in which there is on view the kind of amazing things which he is probably the only man on the planet who could – and is willing to -- try and do.  Since this offering is technically a sequel of another motion picture (which -- unlike this one – also starred Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao), there's a visual bonus thrown in at the beginning due to the effective recap of what had previously transpired including clips of some of Jackie's (in)famous feats in the original "Project A" (such as his homage to silent movie great, Harold Lloyd, which involved his dangling from the minute hand of a giant clock before letting go and falling quite a long way down, with only a couple of cloth awnings for cushioning comfort).
Carina, Maggie and Tung
Should there be any doubt, here's confirmation that there also are quite a few more treats in store after that.  At the very least, there can be said to be in PROJECT A II proper:  At least one more amazing major stunt (which is another silent movie tribute -- this time to Buster Keaton); quite a few acrobatic fights involving tons of individuals, during which people painfully get thrown onto and bounce off different surfaces; one incredible action on the part of Jackie involving REAL chili peppers (which makes the (re)viewer appreciate how much punishment the film's director and screenwriter as well as star is willing to inflict on himself to entertain us...I mean, this is something he could have easily faked.  But he definitely didn't!); a diverting hide-and-uncover comedy sequence (involving just about everybody who's anybody in the movie); along with the always interesting out-takes. With regards to the last:  Apart from the usual Chan "muggings", there's also a particular painful yet funny bit involving a cameraman to look forward to!  Also, the contrast between Rosamund Kwan and Maggie Cheung's reactions after enacting the stunts they were required to do should amuse more than just this fan of theirs.
Maggie sliding, the Ching agents and Jackie on fire
What makes PROJECT A II standout among other Jackie Chan projects I have viewed though are:  The complex plot (N.B. This turn of the century period piece has not one but three sets of villains:  Imperial Chinese courtiers, disgruntled pirates and crooked cops; anti-Manchu revolutionaries also complicate matters quite a bit and lead to Chan's character making a rare politics-tinged speech which, I think, reveals much about Chan's particular pragmatic political perspective); its impressive custom-designed outdoor and indoor sets (notably Tiger Au's den and the Hong Kong colonial governor's residence); the often eye-catching costumes (of the men as well as women); and its large ensemble cast -- which include Ray Liu and David Lam and the all too rare (in the Hong Kong movie world) capable Caucasians actors! – to support the principal performer.  It is also very much to this film's credit that all its visual and other treats actually fit well – rather than incongruously -- into the whole package.  Even while obviously big budget (by Hong Kong film standards), there really is little excess fat and seemingly gratuitous sections in this production.
Rosamund, Mars, Jackie,  (help anyone?) and Tai Po
All in all, this is a marvelous showcase for Jackie Chan.  A couple of years ago, that would have been enough for me.  It is one of those ironic things though that as my appreciation of Hong Kong movies have grown, my estimation of quite a few of this undoubtedly multi-talented individual's works have actually diminished somewhat.  While I still thrill at the physical feats and continue to find quite a bit of humor in Jackie Chan films, his under-use of so many of his fellow actors and actresses -- who have impressed in other productions...ironically enough, including those that Chan has produced but not starred in – can seem like such a crime.  It is not a coincidental matter that my absolute favorite of the man's movies ("Police Story III:  Supercop") is one that quite a few of his most ardent fans feel disappointed by; in large part because Michelle Yeoh stole that show...

My rating for the film:  8


 Reviewed by Brian
I think this is the quintessential Jackie Chan film. This is simply his most perfect blend of comedy, action and narrative. There is not a dull moment to be found in its entire running time. In most of his films Jackie has spectacular fights and stunts – but often surrounds them with a dull or non-existent story. That is not the case here as there is something happening of interest on the screen all the time – there is not a moment of downtime and barely a moment for the audience to catch their breath.
to the far right - Rosamund and Ray Lui
There is almost too much of a story here – many intertwining plots – Jackie cleaning up a corrupt police squad and being framed by the odious Lam Wai, pirates left over from Project A seeking revenge against Dragon Ma (Jackie), the three loveliest revolutionaries ever – Carina Lau, Rosamund Kwan and Maggie Cheung (at her most adorable) – causing Jackie numerous headaches and agents of the Ching government trying to capture the three girls and Ray Lui. Somehow Jackie manages to keep all these threads going like a master juggler and never misses a beat.

The action sequences are nearly mind boggling in their complexity and the dexterity shown by so many people – not only by Jackie but from a veritable army of stuntmen and actors. Some of the falls that the stuntmen perform make me sore to think about – that poor guy who falls from the second floor of Tiger’s (Michael Chan) gambling parlor and lands on the vase and then tumbles onto the floor. Ouch! There is so much amazing stuff going on and it is happening so quickly that after a while it almost becomes common place. Jackie could have filled three films with the material in this film – but he crams it all into this brilliant film.

ken Lo, Jackie, Maggie
Two scenes in this film are complete classics – and this leaves out the fight in Tiger’s place and the incredible scene of the pirates chasing Jackie handcuffed to Lam Wai. They are very different from one another, but capture the essence of Jackie at his best.

One is the comedic – near French bedroom farce – scene that takes place in Maggie’s apartment. It seems that in every closet and under every bed is an opposing party all trying to hide from someone or another. Jackie keeps this scene going for ten minutes and it is near perfection in its absurdity.

Michael Chan, Tai Po, Jackie, Regina, Maggie and Carina
The other is the finale. Jackie constructs a set of rooftops, bamboo scaffolding, cat walks, ladders and falling facades that allows him to perform magic – a display of agility and guts that will keep your mouth agape. From the moment Maggie, Rosamund and Jackie start running over and slipping off a rooftop to the façade falling on him, it is 20-minutes of audacious and mesmerizing movie making.
My rating for this film: 9.0