The Protector (1985)

protector_6The Protector [威龍猛探] (1985)

Starring Jackie Chan, Danny Aiello, Roy Chiao, Bill Wallace, Moon Lee, Victor Arnold, Kim Bass, Richard Clarke, Saun Ellis, Ronan O’Casey, Patrick James Clarke, Sandy Alexander, David Ho, Peter Yang Kwan, Sally Yeh

Directed by James Glickenhaus

Expectations: Jackie Chan, American style.

twohalfstar


Like all of Jackie Chan’s American films, The Protector is a much watered-down version of the amazing action star. But in terms of his “first wave” of American films in the ’80s, The Protector is easily the best and most “Jackie” of the bunch, making it quite an entertaining film as long as you also like the general ’80s action genre. And who doesn’t?

The Protector opens in New York, as some Mad Max rejects re-wire a stop light in order to rob a semi-truck full of computers. Don’t worry about remembering this because none of it matters. It’s merely a setup to introduce us to New York cops Billy Wong (Jackie Chan) and Michael, who respond to the call. They chastise the Texan truck driver about stopping for a red light during the night in the Bronx. But the cops should’ve taken their own advice, because when they end their patrol shift by knocking back a couple of brews at the local bar, the place is robbed by a bunch of armed gunmen. Jackie’s partner is murdered, so he gives chase by land, sea and air (kinda), resulting in the murderer dying in a ball of fire and boat debris, and Jackie being given a more ho-hum job of working security at a party.

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From the Highway (1970)

FromtheHighway+1970-6-bFrom the Highway [路客與刀客] (1970)

Starring Peter Yang Kwan, Ingrid Hu Yin-Yin, Tsui Fu-Sheng, Suen Yuet, Lee Hung, Yeung Fui-Yuk, Lee Man-Tai

Directed by Chang Tseng-Chai

Expectations: Fairly high.

threestar


From the Highway is an impressively produced film… if you can watch it without holding its legacy against it. The film is largely considered the first color hand-to-hand kung fu film, but the title is a misnomer in this case. From the Highway is only barely a martial arts film, let alone a hand-to-hand film. It’s actually a drama surrounded by some traditional martial arts traits. In this way it recalls director Chang Tseng-Chai’s later film The Casino, which is essentially a drama until the action-packed finale.

The lead character, He Tian (Peter Yang Kwan), is perhaps the genre’s first prominent unarmed character, though. If I remember right there are older Shaw Bros movies with hand-to-hand scenes, although I don’t remember other characters who only fight unarmed. I don’t know enough about martial arts film history to say definitively that he’s the first, but if nothing else he’s an unarmed fighter amidst a multitude of weapon-wielding contemporaries. But even if this character trait is notable, it only seems notable because of the film’s built-up legacy. As a viewer in 2015, I’m looking for the seeds of later films; I’m looking for the “birth” of the kung fu film. And it’s just not here. On the other hand, when I watched The Chinese Boxer under the same mindset, it lived up to the legacy of being “the first hand-to-hand kung fu film,” and was impressive for how much it actually resembled later films.

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