With the release of 88 Films Remastered Blu Ray of Operation Condor here are our thoughts on Jackie Chan’s answer to Indiana Jones, his character of Asian Hawk from the Armour of God Trilogy which spans from 1986- 2012.
The original Armour of God was released in 1986 and is highly regarded as one of the Highlights of Chan’s career. A story of a treasure hunter, who has to save his best friends (Alan Tam) girl ( Chan regular Rosemund Kwan) from a religious cult by stealing the armour of the title. This film was originally slated to be directed by Eric Tsang and it would be interesting to find out how much work he actually did as there is one particular sequence which has some graphic gun violence which to us doesn’t really fit in a Jackie Chan directed film.
Famously production had to stop for reportedly one and a half years as while filming a seemingly easy stunt Chan had the most life threatening accident of his time which required brain surgery and has left him with a permanent hole in his skull. We would say this happened early in production as for the opening sequence where the accident occurred he is sporting a new short haircut but the next time we see him he has his regular long hair back. We did read this was due to superstition as his accident happened with the new haircut it was considered to be unlucky so he went back to his normal look.
With this long a break in production Eric Tsang could no longer commit to directing so Jackie stepped in and took over this role. Leading up to this he was making his usual brand of hi octane action films culminating with the excellent Police Story which features some of his most iconic stuntwork put onto film.
It was a different experience revisiting Armour of God. The opening of the film is what you would expect but then it shifts gear. There is not a lot of the usual action or chase sequences you may expect from a work by this director. We felt there was a bit of a lull in the middle of the film leading up to the finale which didn’t feel like what had gone before.
Of course there could be many many reasons for this, Our speculation is that being 32 years old when he made this and having such a serious accident, on a what could be deemed as a simple stunt, JC had a bit of a scare and maybe took his foot off the accelerator having been faced with his own mortality.
We could be wrong about this. Based on an original story by Barry Wong the pacing in the middle may be down to the writing or possibly the vision of the directors. There are comedic elements of this section we thought didn’t really work. There are some great bits throughout the movie but on a whole we found it to be a little flat.
Operation Condor: Armour of God II was released in 1991. We watched the extended cut on the recent 88 Films remastered blu ray. This story has the now monikered Asian Condor on the hunt for Nazi gold in the Sahara Desert. On his journey he is joined by an expert on desert survival the granddaughter of the soldier who was responsible for hiding the gold during World War 2 and a trader who deals with local tribe members for their crafts.
Of the three films we think this is the most comparable one to an Indiana Jones adventure and is also the most “Jackie Chan” film in the trilogy.
The opening sequence is a classic of the genre with Chans trademark humour and action blended together and it sets the tone for the rest of our journey. This work feels very tongue in cheek with the humour playing right the way through the run time. There are some great action set pieces played with the iconic style of Kung Fu and comedy which Jackie Chan has mastered. There are some dark moments portrayed as well which are not usual for a Chan film but work to move the narrative along.
The comedy is very situational and this fits very well with the feel of the film, at no point does it feel forced but it flows just as well as one of the fight scenes. A lot of the humour is centered around the two female leads and their relationship with Chan and it works very well. It is a very inventive film with one of the highlights being a fight sequence in a wind tunnel, not something we have ever seen before (check out our interview with Vincent Lyn here). This is a testament to Chan’s work and vision, he always seems to come up with something new and exciting.
Throughout the film we are treated to exciting chases and some well choreographed fight/stunt sequences but we feel that one of the highlights of the script is the interplay between the three female leads Carol “Do Do” Cheng, Eva Cobo and Shoko Ikeda. Their roles could quite easily have been reduced to damsels in distress but they all have an equal role in the adventure and end up with a cleverly done fight where they are shown to be able to hold their own. They retain a connection with the first film in having the same character of The Earl in both films. There are also a few nods to the first movie in the montage sequences with pop songs sung by Chan in both.