Friday, May 21, 2010

Stunts Without a Net

Film: ‘A’ Gai Waak Juk Jaap (Project A Part 2)
Format: DVD from personal collection on big ol’ television.

Jackie Chan movies are sort of their own category of film. There really isn’t anything else like them. They are part martial arts extravaganza, part comedy, and part sado-masochism. Chan’s films are short on plot and long on ridiculous action sequences that tend to be shown at slightly faster than normal speed and have a lot of interesting props thrown into the mix. Most of his movies really aren’t very good.

It’s sadly still true today. While Chan’s more recent movies have had bigger budgets and have relied much more on obvious wire work, they really haven’t improved. In fact, they’ve gotten a lot stupider. It’s not unlike a lot of martial artists. As they get older, the quality of their cinematic output declines rapidly. Chan’s last bunch of films are more than ridiculous, and he deserves better. Here you have one of the greatest action stars who has ever lived, and he's doing crap like The Tuxedo and The Spy Next Door.

‘A’ Gai Waak Juk Jaap (Project A Part 2, or more simply Project A2) is arguably Chan’s best at least according to the book, although I have a fondness for Rumble in the Bronx. The plot…well, let’s be honest here. The plot really isn’t that important. Chan plays Dragon Ma, a naval police officer who is brought in to help clean up Hong Kong. Specifically, there’s at least one dirty cop on the force, and the authorities want Ma to take him out. There are criminal gangs, evil cops, bad guys, and corruption.

There are crosses, double-crosses, and more throughout the film. The plot gets relatively complicated, especially for a Chan film. Eventually, Jackie Chan and his pals kick a lot of ass, get the bad guys, and the movie ends.

No one watches a Jackie Chan movie for the plot, because the plots tend to be pretty much the same every time. The two paragraphs above pretty much cover every Jackie Chan film ever made, after all. In terms of story, if you’ve seen one, especially during his “Jackie Chan is a cop” phase, you’ve seen them all.

The reason anyone watches Jackie Chan films is for the fights. There are a few good ones, but we sadly go a very long time without a good one. It’s the ending that we want, though. ‘A’ Gai Waak Juk Jaap is perhaps more ambitious than a lot of Chan’s other films. We go for a very long time without a good fight, and that’s the reason I watched. Ultimately, it’s a little disappointing in that there’s far too much concentration on a plot that is more convoluted than it needs to be.

I’d have really rather watched Rumble in the Bronx again, or even Shanghai Noon or Rush Hour. Okay, maybe not Shanghai Noon. It’s also a remarkably bad dub job, at least in the copy I have. It’s not so much that the dialogue is bad; it’s that the actors themselves frequently sound like they are reading the script for the first time. And, for some reason, a bunch of the people have Australian accents. I don’t want Jackie Chan to be relevant or coherent. I want him to do a bunch of crazy shit that no one else can do.

I found this film today in a used DVD store. Since it was on my list of “I can’t find them” films, I bought it. Based on that, it was a good $6 spent. Otherwise, I’ll likely only watch the kick-ass fight scenes again, skipping the middle hour or so.

Why to watch ‘A’ Gai Waak Juk Jaap: Because Jackie Chan is unique in this world.
Why not to watch: Because his movies aren’t always that good, and this one really isn’t either. Jackie deserves a better film on this list.

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