Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1983, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Project A, one of Jackie Chan’s most famous Hong Kong films.
Sales: 4. major success in the native Hong Kong, and fairly successful throughout Asia with notable minor returns elsewhere.
Critical Consensus: 4. Arguably the most well received of any Jackie Chan movie till this point.
Director: 4. I’m going to be generous here, though it’s more likely a 3. Because the action is so good and the pacing is swift, I’ll go with a 4. Chan and Hung don’t do anything out of the ordinary in terms of their wheelhouse, but they do it bigger and better.
Performances: 3. This will rely heavily on your exposure to Martial Arts movies, and Asian comedies. If you are a fan, you’ll be more liable to enjoy the performances, if you’re new to things then you’ll likely be a little confused. There’s no doubting Chan is charismatic, and he’s ably backed by Sammo Hung, Hoi Sang Lee, Yuen Baio, and other Asian action legends.
Characters: 3. I could see people going as low as 2 here. If you’ve seen any Hong Kong cop or action movie, then you’ll be familiar with all of the character types here.
Cinematography: 3. It’s shot neatly enough to accentuate the period of the piece and place, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Writing: 3. You’ll be seeing a lot of threes for this film. It’s a fun action comedy, and not trying to be anything more. Subjectively, sterner critics could go 2 here. It serves the purpose of showing us the characters and plot, it has a few zingers, and that’s yer lot.
Plot: 3. Martial arts movies are rarely known for the most amazing of plots. This one merges the genre with a straighter action/comedy style. There’s not much to it – a bunch of cops who protect the Hong Kong coast from pirates and other maritime badness, have a bit of a rivalry with the ‘normal’ cops. When the Coast Cops see their ships go up in smoke, they are forced to retrain with the normies, while trying to work out who the baddies are. Throw in the usual corruption and a hunt for 100 guns, and that’s it. The plot exists to allow Jackie and pals to have fun with stunts.
Wardrobe: 4. It’s a period piece, so a lot of care and attention is put into the wardrobe. Good.
Editing: 4. Fast and fun. I love the style of this period of action cinema.
Make up and Hair: 3. Sure.
Effects: 3. It’s pre-CG (kind-of), so effects are hand-made. There isn’t much in th way of ‘effects’, because most of what you see happens on camera, and your typical gore gags and explosions and miniatures aren’t involved.
Art and Set: 4. It’s a period piece, so a lot of care and attention is put into the art and set. Good.
Sound And Music: 4. A lot of the Hong Kong movies from this period either aped US Jazz, featured some wailing 80s Asian pop music, or was just forgettable stock strings and horns. Project A stands out, actually making the music sound of the period – you have jaunty sailor heigh ho music, stuff that sounds like it belongs in a circus, and lots of amusing copying from Classical artists. It’s probably a 3, but I have a lot of fondness for how fun it sounds within the film, but it’s unlikely going to be music you just stick on for daily listening pleasure.
Cultural Significance: 3. Your score here will depend on how you define cultural significance. What lens do you, or should you use? In the grand scheme of things, the impact the movie had worldwide was minimal, yet in China and even Japan, the film was a landmark. It did enough to land a sequel, which is a baseline metric for how significant a film is, and it was important enough that a white kid from Northern Ireland got a hold of it in the 90s and is blogging about it 30 years later.
Accomplishment: 4. Most will go with a 3, but I think that in terms of the action accomplished, the fact that Chan did not die doing what he did, and that it was one of the first films he made after returning from an unsuccessful stint in the US, adds up to a 4 for me.
Stunts: 5. Is there any doubt? If you haven’t seen the film, and you enjoy action movies, you owe it to yourself to see it. If you really don’t enjoy Asian movie, at the very least you should check out the stunt highlight on Youtube – I’m sure there’s a compilation out there. Remember, no strings, no stand-ins, and fuck it – not safety nets, just a bunch of veterans throwing their bodies and lives on the line in over the top, extravagant, dangerous, and amusing ways for our entertainment. It’s a Top 5 Chan Stunt movie.
Originality: 3. There’s little originality in the story, plenty of films of this type have been set in this period and place with these types of characters, but it’s all about the creativity of the action. Again, a sterner critic could go 2.
Miscellaneous: 4. I’m going 4 here because Project A was one of the first films to truly go balls deep in terms of dangerous physical stunts, and because it was the first time Jackie and his school mates Sammo and Yuen worked together.
Personal: 4. It’s one of my favourite Jackie Chan movies, from right at the start of his peak, and it’s a joy for those who enjoy his particular brand.
Total Score: 72/100
Let us know your scores in the comments!