Sunday, 9 December 2012

Near Death Experience for Jackie

I’ll start this one with a quote from Markgway from one highly respected forum in Internet – “Remember when Jackie Chan movies used to be in Cantonese?” (All copyrights goes to Markgway). After this obvious attempt for copyright theft I’ll try to share my thoughts over one quite old and significant movie from Jackie’s filmography. Old, because it was made in 1986 and significant as this was a near death experience for poor, battered body of Jackie Chan. 

Probably it changed Chan in certain way, however when I first saw it (on a schoolmate’s birthday party, where the most anticipated moment was watching bootlegs with old martial arts movies, while eating a traditional birthday cake and drinking lemonade – blissfully and unaware about most things happening around us) I didn’t pay enough attention to it, maybe because I was too busy with my piece of cake and cold fizzy lemonade – a feast which won’t be easily forgotten. But some scenes was already stuck in my mind and soul – the chase down the old streets of Dubrovnik (it is located in now present Croatia, then it was part of former Yugoslavia), Lola Forner showing off her shooting skills, the music piece performed by Alan Tam side-by-side with the capture of Rosamund Kwan character by monks with AK-47, Jackie in the final duel against 4 amazons (not like the latest batch). 

Jackie sings

Months later, when I get acquainted with Five Superfighters I borrowed the Armour of God for second time and then I enjoyed it completely. For those who haven’t seen the movie here is a brief description of it – Jackie plays an adventurer called Asian Hawk, who search high and low for rare artifacts around the globe and then sell them for a good amount of money in auction houses. A real profit. Having such high class business must be real fun and Jackie gives one entertaining performance, which filled the movie with easy going atmosphere with distinct trademarks for Chan. But I was talking about the plot – I’m easily distracted when I have to speak for one of my favorite actors. Occupational hazards. Anyway, after Asian Hawk manages to steal an impressive sword from a tribe of uneducated African rednecks he puts it on sale and waits to reap the fruits of his labor. It happens that the same piece of craftsmanship is sought by a vicious society of so called monks, who are acting as multinational company with strict plans of supply and demand. We are talking serious retail skills.

"Did I missed, honey?" - Lola Forner in doubt with sniper

 To get hold of the sword they kidnap one part of the love triangle in the movie Lorelei (Rosamund Kwan) – the other two being Alan Tam & Jackie in a brutal scene over the music accompaniment of some pop rock piece – quite suitable for the nature of the sequence. Soon after this Alan arrives to seek help form his friend, as now Lorelei is his fiancé and in the past it was with Asian Hawk, therefore he still holds an emotional connection and the game is on. They make a deal with a local wealthy man (Bozidar Smiljanic) to acquire the whole set of the so called Armour of God for him in return of his sponsorship and probably good will. After series of stunts and misunderstandings Jackie gets a hold of the precious artifacts, but only briefly as the whole place was destroyed due to careless usage of dynamite and fire. Bad luck at its finest. At the end the famous outtakes make a short glance at what appears to be the near fatal fall from the tree, resulting in serious skull trauma and permanent hole in Jackie’s head. 

Mitsubishi Motors in action

In an interview on some documentary Jackie stated that he landed first on his back/hip and then on head, and this probably saved him from death or being paralyzed for the rest of his life. Always look on the bright side of life. I cannot say whether this incident change the way Chan looks upon the world, life and people around him, but for it would be quite scary to be so close to The Grim Reaper, hanging a scythe on your head, waiting to be forever in his kingdom. Only Jackie knows what came through his mind that time, and after the operation, sitting in his room with so many questions and not so many answers. It was really brave of his side to came back and finish the movie and when it’s not one of his masterpieces it certainly has a solid foundation and altogether a nice film with some nice action scenes and stunts. It hasn’t got a pure martial arts sequences, but it compensates with awesome visuals and impressive action choreography, maintaining one balanced flow from start to finish. 

Lucky bastard...

The chase scene is nicely put and it was its own merits as standalone piece, where explosions and car crashes are edited together with good timing and rhythm. The Mitsubishi car was the hero there and when the Twin Turbo effect was not as impressive as it should be it deserves credit for handling each part of the sequence with admirable precision. Talking about big stunt scenes, the opening one is not with some qualities itself – Jackie (or a double) is jumping off some walls and rocks, sliding down a hill and escapes by small plane, it has a part reminiscent to Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom, where Dr. Jones was hiding behind big metal gong from Thompson bullets, but here Jackie uses a small cauldron to protects himself from incoming spears – some creativity despite the homage to the scene from Spielberg’s trilogy. 

Ruuuun for your lives!!!! Leeeroyyy!!!!

After the slowing down in the middle section of the movie I ended up with great final battle situated in a cave, where the showdown between Jackie and the monks was real highlight and the double flip from the table was a marvel to watch (I’m not sure whether this was John Ladalski or Ken Boyle). It was even better staged than the fight against the amazons and therefore I enjoyed it immensely. And of course the free fall jump onto the balloon was a something that you don’t see in every movie, but to be honest as I was looking at the outtakes it seems to me that some of the scenes were accomplished on the ground instead of filming the whole stunt in the air, but I guess it’s all to director’s discretion. Which doesn’t mean that it was not impressive, it had certain impact and still holds a wow factor, although not as strong as it was the first or second time of viewing. The middle section was dragged a bit with comic bits and pieces, where Alan Tam was main entertainer, especially when they entered the monastery for the first time to rescue Lorelei. But Lola Forner is definitely a seducing girl even more than she was in Wheels on Meals, and here in the scene with Jackie I wouldn’t just leave with cheesy comment, but carrying her to the bed and please her in many ways instead. But I’d guess she had to go by the middle of the movie and leave the end to Jackie and Co. 

I would certanly not having these in the kitchen...

And he managed to compensate for her MIA status by implementing all of his trademarks by the end of the movie and at one point I completely forgot that she was in the movie – guess that all the stunts and action was more important for me, and I’ve been thinking from time to time what would happened if Jackie got paralyzed or even died in that awful stunt gone wrong? The whole thought of this gives me shivers, however I think that martial arts movies would suffer a great loss indeed, not as big as the gap opened after Bruce Lee’s death, but at ’86 Jackie was still at his prime and delivered most of his best work to life. Why I’m trying to share my opinion over Jackie, while the article is about Armour of God? Because I want this article to not only be a simple review, but to include all my emotions over Chan as an actor, performer and person as well. 

Boob Punch!!! A nice echo though

I remember when the second time around I watch this movie, I’ve already been hooked upon the mystery of martial arts technique in Five Superfighters, but as if I was looking about something, I was missing an important part of the picture and it all became clear – Jackie infused my obsession on a whole new level. I have to admit at first glance I was thrilled by seeing Armour of God, however after so many years watching martial arts movies, my taste refined and now I think that it wasn’t so great, it had a few down sides too – one being the tedious middle part, the not so comic Alan Tam, Rosamund Kwan & Lola Forner are there just for a brief, not truly developed in character and in a way they were simply like an extended cameos. The rhythm of the whole movie was uneven, jumping from amazing sequences to boring bits, on some occasions it was clear that Jackie got doubled (but I presume that was necessary due to the hospitalization of Chan himself), however the end fight was make it worth waiting for. 

Jumping from cliffs 101

I’ve read that Cynthia Rothrock was about to fight Jackie for the grand finale, but she declined accepting more substantial role opposite Yuen Biao in “Righting Wrongs”. In both movies she was about to get killed, but it’s really up to her. The amazons does not provide real resistance towards Jackie and in some parts of the fight it was obvious that men were kicking and punching, which was hilarious as I was seeing some weird transgender show. Good thing that they were filmed from behind. In all Armour of God was a decent mixture of martial arts and action wise stunts, but it just missed some opportunities to become a true top fighting picture in Jackie’s filmography.

Behind the scenes - bloody edition...

The final score for it – I may be a bit harsh, being Jackie’s fan for more than 20 years – 7/10

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