Project A II [A計劃續集] (1987)
AKA Pirate Patrol 2, Project B
Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Rosamund Kwan, Carina Lau, Lam Wai, Bill Tung, Kwan Hoi-San, Regina Kent, Wong Man-Ying, Chris Lee Kin-Sang, Tai Bo, Mars, Ben Lam Kwok-Bun, Ken Lo, Michael Chan Wai-Man, Wang Lung-Wei
Directed by Jackie Chan
Expectations: The only thing I remember is the redone Buster Keaton stunt. I don’t even remember if I liked the movie or not!
The perennial question, “Is it better than the original,” always surrounds any discussion of a sequel. In the case of the Project A films, this is not an easy question to answer. The two films are markedly different from one another, with the most defining difference being the absence of Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao from the sequel (they were off making the awesome flick Eastern Condors). This allowed Jackie to branch out the sequel’s story in wildly different directions than the original film, and in a lot of ways it makes for a better, more diverse piece of entertainment.
The choreography is certainly more refined and representative of the “Evolved Jackie” that took shape in Police Story and emerged fully formed in Armour of God. There are certainly instances of Jackie’s defined style earlier, but starting with Police Story the elements come together to create the earliest examples of the quintessential Jackie Chan film. In Project A II, the fights are funny and almost constantly thrilling, without a single moment of wasted movement, and the circumstances under which Jackie finds himself fighting are truly inspired (such as the incredible sequence when Jackie is handcuffed to Chun (Lam Wai)).
At the same time, the choreography is also somewhat of a “nostalgic step back” from Jackie’s evolution, incorporating more of a Sammo Hung-style of choreography throughout the entirety of the film (much like the original Project A has; Jackie and Sammo choreographed that film together). I’ve written previously about how much I love all the falls taken by the stunt team for the Lucky Stars films, and these types of hard slams to the ground (or down stairs, or into poles, etc.) are almost the defining characteristic of the fights in Project A II. It happens A LOT in this film, and the severity with which these guys hit the ground is just flat-out brutal (and, of course, incredible to watch). In this way, much of the fight choreography feels like Jackie’s take on Sammo’s style, and while it’s awesome and amazing and well beyond anything I could ever hope to do in my lifetime, it’s also somewhat lacking in that wow factor that elevates fights like the mall finale of Police Story, or the Monks & Amazon fight in Armour of God, to the level of iconic pillars of the genre.
The ultra-dangerous “Only in a Jackie Chan movie” stunts are also bigger and better than in the first film. The big one from Project A is obviously the clock tower fall, and it seems like there was a conscious effort in the sequel to not only best that stunt, but to dwarf it in a sea of equally death-defying and incredible stunts. The biggest of these comes at the end of the film when Jackie recreates the gag from Steamboat Bill, Jr. where the front of a house falls on Buster Keaton. In Project A II, the falling structure is much bigger and more dangerous than Keaton’s. It’s a huge stunt and it could have easily gone so wrong, so in my mind it is effective in equaling the clock tower fall of Project A. But this amazing stunt comes directly after one that is just as incredible, where Jackie runs down the side of another falling building facade. It’s nuts! Jackie also made sure that he wasn’t the only one in danger on the set; this movie features a whole bunch of people falling from great heights! This sequel definitely raises the stakes… but that is to be expected of a Jackie Chan film of this era, when he was never content to simply repeat what he had done before.
That being all being said, there’s just something about that fall in Project A that somehow trumps nearly every other Jackie stunt for me. Others are more technical in nature, and probably even more dangerous, but something about the simplicity of falling from a building really captures my attention. I think because it is so simple and I still can’t believe that he ever agreed to do it, having never really done anything on that scale before. Can you imagine the atmosphere on set for that? Sure, nowadays you say, “OK guys. Jackie’s gonna jump off this building,” and you think, “OK, Jackie’s gonna jump off the building. He’s Jackie, no big deal.” But in Project A, there was no precedent for this! And he did the stunt three times because he wasn’t happy with it! He’s crazy, and it’s this mind-boggling commitment to creating dynamic action cinema that has forever earned him a place in my heart.
In terms of story, though, my vote goes firmly with Project A II. I love the pirate shenanigans and the Jackie/Sammo/Yuen Biao dynamic of the original, but the script of Project A II is better constructed. The sequel skillfully weaves a bevy of characters and plot threads into a fast-moving fun film, all building to an incredibly exciting finale complete with the film’s BIG stunts. The sequel also contains the wonderful Marx Brothers-inspired scene of everyone coming over to Maggie Cheung’s house, but none of them know the others are there. The skillful planning of the entire film is evidenced in microcosm in this scene, with each new revelation upping the ante and bringing bigger and bigger laughs.
Well, it seems my review of Project A II ended up as more of a compare/contrast with the first film. Oh well, that’s what happens when I focus on writing about the random thoughts I had while I watched the movie. In any case, I think I’ve proven that the two films are very much their own thing, and any preference between the two is just that. But no matter where you land on that argument, Project A II is undeniably chock full of stunts, fights, comedy and large-scale spectacle, and every one of these elements is exceptionally well executed.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is the final film of the three brothers 🙁 Sammo Hung’s Dragons Forever! See ya then!