Review: Project A (1983)


Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Dick Wei, Mars

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao

Directed by Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung

I love pirate stories. Adventures on the high seas, crazy swordsplay, and just about everyone looks like they’re having a blast making it. Jackie Chan takes his cohorts and crazy stunts and puts them to work in Project A, and yeah, they all had a blast doing it, even the poor bastards that got jacked up.

The film opens as the Navy does whatever it can to capture the deadly pirate Sam Pau (Wei) but with no luck, and their best sailor, Dragon Ma (Chan) is about to take his men and go hunt the pirate the following night. Well, suffice to say the Hong Kong police force are a grand group of whiny bitches who think that there isn’t a use for sailors who chase pirates, because certainly the police can do a better job of capturing them provided they ever actually decide to land their boats. Damn. That night, ’cause they may get killed, Dragon and his posse go to the local bar, full of cops, and Dragon accidentally spills his drink on Inspector Hong, nephew of Captain Chi, head of the police force. Just like any western, a fight ensues, and it’s a fun one, with funny scenes and good choreographed chaos. I love what happens when two cops show up to break up the fight, and find themselves quickly over their heads! After the sailors are released from jail, they meet to go after the pirate, but before they can he blows up their boats. Of course you can’t be a sailor without a boat, and thus the sailors are merged into the police force, and Dragon and his men find themselves under Inspector Hong, and what ensures are Police Academy-style shenanigans (I don’t to use that word often enough) as the men try to revolt against Hong, but he’s too smart for their tricks and turns it against them.

Hong and Dragon soon team up to take out a local gangster who has ties to Sam Pau, and after a failed attempt to capture the hidden criminal in a casino, Captain Chi tries to lay all of the blame on Dragon, and Holy Shit was that not a good idea-for the bad guys. Dragon goes all Ragin’ Jackie and wipes the casino with anyone who stands between him and the gangster. One of the most cringe inducing scenes here involves punching a guy and throwing him off of a two-story balcony were he falls. That in itself is bad enough, but what puts it over the top is that the poor sucker hits a chandelier on the way down, and it spins him around midair so he lands head first! Suffice to say Dragon gets his man, and quits, and runs into his old pal Fatty (Hung, who else?) and the movie really kicks into high gear, and what follows is a fantastic series of fights and stunts, starting from the most painful bicycle stunts ever seen, which turn out to be better than many movie car chases, and culminates in a fantastic one-two as Jackie and Sammo team up to take out the bad guys in a clinic of pinpoint fight choreography and acrobatics. Later Dragon has a drop from a clock tower that is a classic scene of cinema, and one of the most painful falls of Jackie’s career. How he survived this fall is simply amazing. Moreso the fact that he continues the scene after he falls! Let’s see Captain Jack Sparrow try that shit!

Things turn bad for Hong Kong when the British Admiral that was supposed to take over the Navy is waylaid at sea by Sam Pau’s men and taken hostage, and Dragon is able to convince his superiors to reinstate the Navy, and to go ahead with Project A, and I suppose if that doesn’t work they have B, C, and D, so surely one of the would work, but for lack of imagination, they went with A. Soon Dragon, his buddy Jaws (played by early and longtime Chan stalwart Mars, he of the recognizable chin) Inspector Hong and Fatty make a daring raid on Sam Pau’s fortress in an attempt to rescue the hostages, if they can avoid killing each other on the way…

Simply put, this film is a lot of fun. The stunts are great, and the fight choreography is what you would expect from 80’s style Chan films, in other words great. But then, anytime Jackie, Sammo, and Yuen get together is always golden, and Dick Wei always comes correct in any film he does, and gives a really good performance as Sam Pau. Kwan Hoi-San also proves to be a great foil for Jackie as Captain Chi, who is both one step ahead of Dragon and yet one step behind the entire film.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Good stuff all around from Jackie and Sammo. Their team up fight scene is classic, showcasing what makes each of them great separately, and then how it make them even better together.

STUNTS: (10) Yowza. The stunt crew brought it with this one. Nasty falls, great reaction, and let’s not forget bicycle stunts that look really painful, and of course Jackie’s clock tower fall highlight the great effort these guys put into entertaining us.

STAR POWER: (10) Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and a helping of Dick Wei. Yeah, that’s gold. ‘Nuff said.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Jackie and crew bring the pain and the laughs, which may be a bit dated today, but the fight scenes and stunts are still jaw droppers by even today’s standards. A Chan Classic that’s actually fun for the whole family.

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4 Responses to “Review: Project A (1983)”

  1. Project A was the second Jackie Chan film (after Police Story) I saw way back in the time of VHS. That whole bike sequence has always stuck with me, as has the literally death-defying fall from the clock-tower (those tarpaulins were meant to break his fall – instead he just ripped straight through them on the way to the ground!). This was also my introduction to Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, although it took a while to realise their stature.

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  2. Project A was also one of the very first kung fu movies I ever saw and the first Jackie Chan (and Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao). Needless to say it stayed with me and helped convert me into the rabid kung fu movie fan I am today.

    BTW I see you have a picture of Jackie in Little Big Soldier at the top of this page. That was a great movie too.

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