Armour of God Review
Before I start I would just like to go on record by saying that I am a big Jackie Chan fan, that said...
Jackie Chan directs himself as the 'Asian Hawk', or to you and me, an Indiana Jones style character who searches for hidden treasures that are then used to turn in a profit. Having already discovered three pieces of the 'Armour of God' (a mystical artefact) an evil cult (who are also seeking out the armour of god) decide to enlist the services of Jackie, but rather than pay him they decide blackmail is the best option. In turn this means we get to see our favourite action hero combine his usual combination of highflying stunts and martial arts action with some exotic locations, but somehow it just does not work.
Despite an interesting opening ten minutes that features some superb acrobatic displays from Chan, a reasonably exciting car chase at the thirty minute mark, and a decent final twenty minutes in the form of some fairly impressive martial arts action, there is nothing else on offer and none of these sequences can keep this film afloat for its 94 minute runtime. For the remainder of the film we see some of Chan's usually highly enjoyable trademark comedy present, some of it works (for example, when all four lead actors are together in a villa there are some genuinely funny moments, also the use of dynamite at the end) but the majority somehow falls short of the mark. The Brady Bunch style band is quite amusing, the way Chan is constantly chewing gum (and a typically extravagant way of consuming it) is memorable, but all of this is just too brief and shallow to really add anything to the dull story. What is also quite strange is how un-Chan-like certain sequences are, especially when you consider the fact that he himself directed Armour of God. Women are portrayed quite badly and there is a lot of violence that sees many innocent people simply gunned down in cold blood which all seems firmly out of place in a Chan film.
Finally, I have to mention the fact that this is the film that nearly cost Jackie his life due to a mistimed jump that led to him landing head first on a rock. You will easily notice the filming before and after the fall due to the huge difference in his hair length (he sports an unusually short style at the start of the film/before the accident) and of course you can see the consequences in the end credit outtakes. I am not sure if this is a good thing though as it is quite unnerving to see the dire state he was in when this accident occurred, it also shows how when filming stunts in these old Hong Kong films they really took practically zero precautions (this being a relatively simple stunt it could still have had padding on the surrounding floor area which need not have been in the shot) which makes what they do all the more impressive, but also a little daft.
Presented at its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 Armour of God also benefits from the extra resolution offered by its anamorphic transfer. Most importantly (for a Hong Kong film) the print used is generally very clean with only the occasional scratch showing up, film grain is kept to a minimum but is present. Detail is of a high level throughout (though suffers in dark scenes) and the colour rendition (especially in the countryside and town) is amazing for a Hong Kong film. The only compression problems I noticed occurred during the 'concert' sequence where some slight pixellisation could be seen in the background but this only lasts for around a minute so is not a major problem.
Offered the choice of the original Cantonese Language or the English Dub (both presented in Dolby Digital 5.1) I would, as per usual, choose the former. Both tracks are well presented with clear dialogue throughout and no signs of hiss (as you may expect to find with a film of this age). The optional subtitles are a little smaller than what we have seen with more recent HKL discs but they are still very easy to read and are of a high standard with no spelling or grammatical errors.
Kicking things off are the standard Original Theatrical Trailer (which as usual for Hong Kong films is just far too long) and HKL's own promotional trailer. Next up we get the extremely poor Photo Gallery that is not only difficult to navigate, but only offers stills from the movie! Also present is the now standard animated biography for Jackie Chan which, while very detailed has been seen on all of HKL's other Chan DVD releases. So far this is a relatively featureless DVD from Hong Kong Legends, fortunately they have presented us with two interviews that make it worthy of a look (in the extras department). The first interview is with Chan himself, here he talks in-depth about the 'famous' warrior woman fight featured in the film and offers some interesting insights to the action. The second interview is with Chan's manager, Willie Chan, in which he talks about the infamous injury that Jackie sustained at the early stages of the films shoot.
If you have never seen a Jackie Chan film before then do not start with this one! (Instead look at those in the 'Similar Titles' section). One for Jackie Chan aficionados only this DVD is another quality offering from Hong Kong Legends that while lacking in the extras department offers a fine transfer and the longest cut of the film.