ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Jackie Chan's Project A & Project A Part II Blu Ray (Eureka!)
Following hot on the heels of their Police Story and Police Story 2 boxed set, Eureka Entertainment brings us another double bill of Jackie Chan favourites. Project A and its sequel are period action adventures set in Hong Kong around the turn of the 20th century.
Watch a trailer:
Project A (1983)
Jackie Chan plays Sergeant Dragon Ma, a member of a Hong Kong coast guard squad assigned to defend the colony against marauding pirates. When two of their ships are mysteriously blown up in the dock he is reassigned, along with his colleagues, to work in the regular police force under Captain Tzu (Yuen Biao). However, when he discovers that the authorities are in cahoots with the bad guys which he is hunting down, he teams up with an old friend named Fei (Sammo Kam-Bo Hung) who plies his trade on the wrong side of the law. Unfortunately, Fei tricks Dragon, resulting in him being pursued all over town by police and gangsters alike.
While it is difficult to pinpoint a definitive Jackie Chan film (a lot of them contain truly desert island-worthy highlights), Project A is as good a choice as any for that particular accolade. The escapist fun level hits the roof right from the frenetic early barroom brawl and stays there up until the inevitable climatic sword fight in the pirates’ lair. Along the way, we are treated to many stunningly-choreographed fights, some hilarious slapstick gags, a wonderful stunt-filled bicycle chase amid a maze of backstreets and a classic homage to Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! as Chan dangles precariously from a giant clock hand.
While some of the stunts in Chan’s later efforts (such as Police Story, Armour of God or, for that matter, Project A Part II) have outclassed those in Project A in terms of pure “wow, did they actually do that?” factor, it remains arguably his most consistently great film. The plot is decidedly unbridled and free-wheeling, throwing itself from one exhilarating setpiece to another with pure carefree abandon. The lavish period settings also give it an extra something over and above most of Chan’s other vehicles, providing him and his co-stars with a colourfully eye-pleasing environment to let loose in…
…and it should definitely be noted that it is not entirely Chan’s film alone. It was the first movie where he would work as a trio with fellow Peking Opera School China Drama Academy alumni and martial arts stars Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Together, they became known as the “Three Dragons” through a series of films up to and including Dragons Forever in 1988. Their on-screen teamwork really comes into play during the action-packed finale here.
As with many of Chan’s films from this period, don’t forget to sit through the end credits for some outtakes which let you truly appreciate the sense of danger that the star and his cohorts faced while carrying out all of the practical stunts. You’ll surely be catching your breath.
Runtime: 105 mins
Dir: Jackie Chan
Script: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang
Starring: Jackie Chan, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Yuen Biao, Dick Wei, Mars, Isabella Wong
Project A Part II (1987)
Jackie Chan returns as Sergeant Dragon Ma in this follow-up. This time, he is reassigned to take Hong Kong’s Sai Wan district over from Superintendent “Three Rings” Chun, whom the authorities suspect of staging fake arrests in order to improve his reputation. In no time, Dragon has his hands full dealing with corrupt policemen, gangsters, anti-Manchurian Chinese revolutionaries and a few retribution-seeking leftovers from the pirate clan which he busted in the last film.
Chan’s fellow “Dragons” Sammo Kam-Bo Hung and Yuen Biao may be missing from this sequel. Despite this, it’s almost as good as the original, albeit for some different reasons. Whereas the previous entry placed its emphasis largely on fights and brawls, this one varies the mix a lot more. The pace slows down during the midsection but not in a manner that’s boring by any means. Instead, we get more in the way of intricate plotting plus a couple of lengthy, elaborate farcical sequences, both revolving around various characters attempting to avoid detection. The first is a classic Pink Panther-style heist inside a huge mansion where a costume ball is taking place. The second, set within the decidedly more modest home of sisters Yesan (Maggie Cheung) and Beattie (Carina Lau) is even better, especially when Dragon’s hapless superior (played by Chan movie regular Bill Tung) manages to handcuff himself to a chair without realising that he has lost the key.
The final fifteen minutes consists of an incredible string of fights and dangerous height-related stunts, the latter often making inspired use of the beautiful Maggie Cheung and Rosamund Kwan. It’s all capped off with a homage to the classic house wall stunt from Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928).
Although the first film was decidedly lavish-looking, this one is to a greater extent still. There are more and bigger sets populated by large numbers of expensively-attired extras. Some of these sets are genuinely imaginative, especially the factory with a water wheel-based mechanism and the street decorated with huge floral wreaths at the climax.
While Project A Part II isn’t quite as perfectly-formed as its predecessor was, it’s more ambitious and spectacular.
Runtime: 106 mins
Dir: Jackie Chan
Script: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang
Starring: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Rosamund Kwan, Carina Lau, David Lam, Bill Tung, Ray Lui, Michael Wai-Man Chan
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
Project A looks and sounds great with lots of vivid colours. The image looks a little too dark and soft at times on Project A Part II - but curiously, it improves considerably towards the end.
There are a huge number of extras spread across this two disc package. While the majority appear to be recycled from earlier releases, the Tony Rayns interviews are new.
Interview with Tony Rayns
Film commentator and festival programmer Rayns talks about the genesis of Golden Harvest and the life and career of Jackie Chan up until Project A before discussing the film itself. Jackie and his co-stars Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao got their first taste of collective stardom as three members of a young performance troupe called The Seven Little Fortunes, who were picked from the China Drama Academy’s finest pupils. While Project A was the first of several films to bring them back together as the Three Dragons, by the time Project A Part II was made their working relationship had soured - hence the absence of either Sammo or Yuen from the latter film.
Jackie performed three takes of the famous clock tower fall stunt and footage from all of them is included in the film. Two of them are included in the main flow of the story (with the second one shown in slow motion after the first). During the third, he suffered serious injuries from the fall (he broke half of his ribs) but decided to include it as part of the end credits outtakes.
Interview with Lee Hoi San
Lee Hoi San is a Wing Chun Grandmaster who has popped up in various roles in Hong Kong martial arts films, performing alongside Jackie in Project A. He talks about his films, the differences between real and onscreen martial arts and how people in the street mistake him for an evil person just because they saw him playing a villain. He finishes by demonstrating a Wing Chun kata.
Interview with Yuen Biao
Yuen talks about Peking Opera School days and his film career, including his experiences working with Bruce Lee and fellow alumnus and longtime friend Sammo Hung. His name “Yuen” was given to him at the school because the pupils always took the names of their teachers. He stuck with it through his career.
Interview with Dick Wei
Wei played the head pirate in Project A and also popped up in a number of Jackie’s other films. He’s an evident dog lover (judging by the amount of them that he keeps at his home) who got into the Hong Kong film industry after being spotted by a Shaw Brothers talent scout while running a martial arts studio in Taipei, Taiwan. However, he ultimately left the film business because he was bored with being typecast as bad guys.
Interview with Michael Lai
One of the most interesting interviews here is with the soundtrack composer for several of Jackie’s other films. Lai also produced the star’s first music album and has acted in Hong Kong cinema since childhood. He discusses the ideas which he came up with when composing several of the key tracks for Project A and Police Story. He reveals that the theme song for the latter film was subsequently used in actual Hong Kong police recruitment films.
There are three extended and deleted scenes here lasting just over 10 minutes in total. They include a training room fight between Jackie and Yuen, a comedically guilt-ridden dinner hall scene and an extended sequence revolving around the brothel gun exchange.
Alternate Ending Credits & Outtakes
We get to see the Cantonese language closing credits with a few extra stunt flubs.
Lunar New Year Introduction
This particular oddity is one of a number of intros which Jackie Chan created for the launch of his films during the Chinese New Year period in specific territories - in this case, Singapore and Malaysia. Jackie narrates to the camera (with brief appearances by Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao) and presents several stunt injury outtakes as a way of proclaiming his dedication to his audience.
Project A Part II
Project A Part II: The Export Cut
This shorter, 98-minute cut of the film is apparently the version which got released on VHS in the UK during the 1980s. While I haven’t taken the time to see this version, I understand that most of the cuts were to plot-related scenes.
Interview with Tony Rayns
If you’ve watched Project A Part II then this interview is a must-see, especially since Rayns extensively goes through the film’s plot complications and lends them some historical context. While the original (released in 1983) largely sidestepped the political aspects of the story, this one (released in 1987) embraces them quite extensively via its scenes focussing on the British colonial administration and Chinese revolutionaries. In 1984, between those two dates, Margaret Thatcher visited Beijing to negotiate the future of Hong Kong as the lease was due to expire in 1997. Since the colony relied on the Chinese-owned New Territories in order to sustain itself, it had to be ceded to Mainland China - a fact which the local population were generally upset about. While Chan didn’t take an overt position at the time of its release, he sided with China during the 1990s and lost much of his domestic fanbase in the process.
Interview with Michael Wai-Man Chan
Actor Michael Wai-Man Chan, who played the gangster Tiger Aw in Project A Part II, talks about his extensive martial arts training (he started learning Northern Shaolin kung fu from the age of 12) as well as his film career. He reports that he was good friends with Bruce Lee but dismisses certain fan theories asserting that he didn’t really die in 1973. He also discusses his erstwhile working relationships with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. While he never appeared in a film with Sammo in front of the camera, the latter was a fight choreographer on a number of his films. Unfortunately, they fell out after an incident at a Hong Kong disco.
Interview with Stuntman Mars
Mars (real name Cheung Wing-Fat) talks about how he adopted his screen moniker as well as his ongoing career as a stuntman and actor. He knew Jackie Chan from his Peking Opera School days and went on to become part of his regular Stuntman Association. He explains that the difference between Hong Kong stunts back in the 1970s/80s and nowadays is that, back then, when you fell 10-20 feet you had no mat to break your fall so you had to take care when landing. In more recent years, insurance policies have made this practice prohibitively expensive.
Jackie Chan: King of Action
A look at Jackie’s career and several key movies with various interviewees. Some of the interviews (especially featuring Jackie himself and Australian actor Richard Norton) are familiar from Eureka’s release of City Hunter. Still, it’s interesting to hear that, according to Drunken Master director Woo-Ping Yuen, Jackie is more scared of injections and stitches in hospital than he is of performing the incredibly dangerous stunts that keep putting him there in the first place!
Someone Will Know Me
This archive featurette takes a behind-the-scenes look at the stunts of Project A Part II as well as interviewing three members of Jackie Chan’s stunt team.
The extras are rounded out by an enclosed booklet and trailers.
The two Project A films stand amongst Jackie Chan’s absolute best and the package as a whole is superb.
Project A Part II