Jackie Chan's Project A & Project A Part II Review
Jackie Chan made several films with his two “brothers”, Sammo Hung and Yuen Baio. Project A was one of the Three Dragons movie and what a considerable shame there are so few others. If you go by choreography alone, I’m not sure anyone knows Chan quite as well as those two do because they are comfortably generous with each other in the set-pieces making them amongst the best in martial arts cinema. Project A, even by their standards, is fantastic.
To put that in perspective, Jackie Chan and his stunt team made two of the most influential action movies in Police Story and Police Story II (also released recently by Eureka! in a wonderful set, reviewed here), but Project A is something more special again because of Baio and Hung’s involvement. They are sorely missed in the baggy Project A Part II, but this is more the fault of ambition outweighing perspective. Project A & Project A Part II sit either side of his Police Story double-bill, so you can see how Chan thought he could go bigger again. He couldn’t.
Project A Part II is an admirable mess. The scraps are fantastic and the set-pieces do rank amongst Chan's best. It can be very funny, ranging from farce to dry wit. The clunky Carry On style that plagued some of Chan’s earlier work is definitely gone.
Both films are huge productions that showcase Chan’s tremendous skill. Neither is purely martial arts, focusing more on jaw-dropping escapades inspired by silent comedy; the Harold Lloyd clock-tower leads to one of Jackie’s more notorious injuries in the first film. In the second he pays tribute to Buster Keaton’s famous falling house and even goes one step further. Literally so, as he steps into the safe position as the house already falls over him.
Project A part one is the more watchable of the two with a sort-of Police Academy style plot (Jackie Chan was always so keenly in-step with Hollywood). A cheesy start gives way to a brilliant extended chase sequence with Sammo and Chan, building to a suitably grand finale. The second has much to recommend it but doesn’t play quite so smoothly, though there is a wonderful farcical sequence in the classic sense of the phrase when at least three sets of characters are all hiding in the same apartment, unaware of each other. Both films are fantastic fun with incredible period detail and Eureka! have done another superb job on this limited edition set.
The new 2K sourced 1080p transfers in OAR of 2.35:1 are much improved on the original DVDs. Clean, sharp and full of detail, which both films benefit from as they are busy productions. It's a testament to the size of those productions that the HD remasters have uncovered more depth. One slight downside of Blu-Ray re-issues is that production design on period stories can become more obvious and a set is revealed to be just that. On the contrary, both Project A films are even more convincing than ever before, despite the sets being almost entirely contrived when compared to the contemporary locations of the Police Story films. On that point, Eureka!'s work on this set is even more impressive than their previous ones. There’s some grain in shifts between sources, but never distracting.
As with the Police Story set, there is a choice of Cantonese Mono, 5.1 or English 5.1. The original mono is the best choice and Eureka!'s work on cleaning up the source material on all their releases is one of the biggest benefits to fans of martial arts cinema. The 5.1 is a fun remix as an alternative, but not as precise. Never the English dub though! None of the audio drop-outs that plagued the Police Story set was apparent.
The extra features are not as well curated as previous releases from Eureka!, but it's as definitive as you are going to get, albeit without the original commentaries a lot of you will remember from the old Hong Kong Legends label. There are lots of interviews that all cheerfully unpick the two films. Some are new, most are archive material.
There is also the rare 'export cut' of Project A Part II, which is shorter than the original cut, and a couple of thorough documentary shows that look at Jackie and his stunt team.
Tony Rayns (both discs; 38m and 36m)
Lee Hoi San (22m)
Yuen Biao (18m)
Dick Wei (14m)
Michael Kai (17m)
Michael Chan Wai-Man (Project A Part II: 20m)
Stuntman Mars (Project A Part II: 15m)
Deleted Scenes for Project A (10m) which includes a great exhibition fight between Yuen Biao and Jackie Chan.
Alternate end credits for Project A (2m)
Lunar year introduction for Project A (2m)
Trailers for both films
The export cut of Project A Part II (98m)
Jackie Chan: King of Action (31m)
Someone Will Know Me (13m) US dubbed archive show, interviewing Jackie Chan's stunt team.