Thursday, August 28, 2008

Project A review

In late 19th century Hong Kong, the navy was geared towards capturing pirates who consistently gave trouble in the waters. The trouble shifts to the land as Dragon (Jackie Chan) soon discovers corrupted high officials working with the pirates, ultimately destroying the navy and giving the pirates the upper hand. With the police and gangs out to get him, Dragon seeks to get eliminate the pirate threat and bring prestige back to the navy.

The Good?
The seamless transitions from plot to action. There are no fights for structure’s sake here. They are woven into the plot and seem to occur spontaneously and plausibly.

Not to mention the fact that this is some of the best Jackie fighting out there. It’s the usual comedic, prop filled action we’re used to, but the fighters constantly find new material in chairs, tables and everything else at their disposal.

Project A is remarkable for its gorgeous group choreography in scenes where Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao get involved. As they fight a never-ending flow of thugs and pirates, the trio’s punches and kicks interconnect smoothly as they set each other up for anything from partnered flip attacks to innovative chair-leg whacking. This is the performance, the spectacle, the attraction, the reason we watch martial arts films. We want to see thoughtful, dense action like this.

There’s a five-minute fight scene on bicycles.

The film is hilarious when it is not wowing its audience with action. There are randomly funny acts of violence, cheesy misunderstandings and ridiculously kitschy dialogue. Hey, some of it’s unintentional, but you’ll be laughing anyway.

The Bad?
The whole pirates conflict never holds the significance it should. The villains don’t get us riled up nearly as much as the police (which climaxes in an early police vs. navy bar fight). The pirates should have been given a much more threatening, stronger presence.


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