Hi everyone! I hope you guys enjoyed the last list about kung fu movies because I’ve got another list for you. This week, we’ll take a look at the legendary, fearless hero of action cinema, Jackie Chan. I can’t think of anything clever to write here so I’m just going to start the list with this crime against fashion. If there are movies in the same series that I like, I’ll talk about them together.
1) Rumble in the Bronx ç´…ç•ªå€ (1995)
Jackie Chan is a cop visiting New York to help with his uncle’s (Bill Tung) wedding. At this time, Bill Tung sells his supermarket business to Anita Mui so Jackie Chan volunteers to stay and help run the supermarket. Unfortunately, a street gang targets the supermarket and Jackie Chan has to protect the supermarket from them. Later on, an even bigger conflict arises with serious criminals and Jackie Chan engages in gunfights, car chases and even a hovercraft chase throughout “New York” (actually Vancouver).
This movie established Jackie Chan in the American consciousness because it showed off the best of Jackie Chan’s fighting and humour.
The acting is really, really bad but laughably so. Also, since there are Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong actors and English-speaking Canadians, they don’t bother dubbing everybody into the appropriate language so Jackie Chan is speaking Cantonese to a kid replying in English and somehow everybody understands each other.
Other than that, there’re two well-known scenes: One inside a gang hideout, where Jackie Chan fights over pinball machines, refrigerators, shopping carts, etc..; The other in an alley that moves onto the rooftops. In terms of stunts, the most famous one is probably Jackie Chan jumping from a carpark’s top floor into a doorway in an adjacent building; followed by the hovercraft-car chase and jet-ski scene.
This is definitely not Jackie Chan’s best movie but it’s like a very good side-dish sampler.
Where to watch: it’s easy to find online/rental
2) Dragon Lord é¾™å°‘çˆ· (1982)
Dragon (Jackie Chan) and Cowboy (Mars) are rich, spoiled kids who spend their days playing sports, chasing girls and generally being a nuisance. One day, Dragon loses a love letter he tried to send via kite. In recovering said letter, Dragon and Cowboy discover and are pulled into a plot by disenfranchised soldiers to steal national treasures. Shenanigans, fights and stunts ensue.
This movie underperformed at the box office because it had relatively less action (although the sole major fight scene is still better than most action movies). However, I think the other parts make up for the lack of action and it’s actually one of my favourite Jackie Chan movies.
First, Jackie Chan and Mars are always a delight to watch together because their real-life friendship carries onto the screen very well. It helps that both Chan and Mars have funny faces that easily sell the physical gags like being beaten up.
Second, the story isn’t anything special but it’s very engaging because there’s no “dead weight” in the movie. Every moment is pure buffoonery.
Lastly, the star of the movie are the non-fighting stunt scenes! The highlight is probably the shuttlecock-soccer tournament where the entire Jackie Chan Stunt Team shows off their skills. In my opinion, the movie is worth the watch for that tournament scene alone!
Where to watch: it’s easy to find online/rental
3) Project A Aè®¡åˆ’ 1983
Project A featured Jackie Chan (who directed), Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung and was Jackie Chan’s love letter to the silent-era stunt-comedians like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.
Jackie Chan plays a maverick coast guard sergeant in colonial Hong Kong. Before an anti-piracy operation, the coast guard ships are sabotaged and destroyed. Thus, the coast guard are converted into policemen under the arrogant police inspector Yuen Biao, worsening the rivalry between the coast guard and policemen. However, when the pirates kidnap important British officials, Jackie and Yuen Bao team up with Sammo Hung, a thief with a heart of gold, to stop the pirates and rescue the hostages.
Project A learned from the “failings” of Dragon Lord and Jackie Chan made sure to incorporate even more action and it showcases the ability of this legendary trio. Honestly, I can’t even summarise the fight scenes because there are so many. The best are the coast-guard-police bar fight at the start, the fight in a club when the officers arrest a thug, the chase throughout the city, and the finale in the pirate lair. I especially enjoyed the final battle because the villain is played by Dick Wai, a Taiwanese taekwondo expert who’s muscular and agile and he’s super imposing and our heroes had to get creative to defeat him.
The movie is also hilarious because no matter how frantic the action gets, there’s always room for a joke somewhere amidst the chaos. For instance, during the bar fight, one coast guard is constantly on the lookout for his nemesis with a plate of spaghetti to smash him in the face with but he never gets his man. There are a lot of other jokes like Yuen Biao teaching the coast guard how to shower and throw grenades. The theme song is also really cheesy, gross and funny.
Lastly, some memorable stunts include Jackie falling from a seven-storey clocktower like Buster Keaton (TWICE!) and his escape from gangsters on bicycles through a slum.
Reportedly, the Showa emperor loved this film so much that Jackie Chan made Project A Part II. If Part I’s good enough for the emperor, it’s good enough for you!
Where to watch: Netflix https://www.netflix.com/sg/title/28369636
3) Miracles å¥‡è¿¹ 1989 a.k.a. The Canton Godfather
Jackie Chan is a kind-hearted bumpkin who got swindled of his money. His luck changes after he buys a rose from an old lady. Through a series of mishaps, he ends up a reluctant gang boss and opens a nightclub with Anita Mui. Later, it is discovered that the old lady was pretending to be rich so her daughter wouldn’t worry about her. When the daughter wants to visit and have her mother meet her fiancé’s relatives, the lady doesn’t know what to do. Naturally, Jackie Chan tries to help her fake her wealth by installing her in an expensive apartment, giving her a makeover and even having gangsters pretend to be important dignitaries at a dinner party. Unfortunately, an evil plot within the gang threatens the ruse and Jackie’s life.
Miracles is less actiony than the others on the list and there’re only 2 special fight scenes, which are both very good. One takes place inside a restaurant and they fight on the railings and a spiral staircase; and the other in a rope factory so you have a lot of cool acrobatic stuff.
It’s also a tribute to classic Hollywood musicals and there’s even an extended musical number where Anita Mui sings “Rose”, which has become my favourite rendition of the song.
Also, it’s Jackie Chan’s most sophisticated film yet and incorporates a lot of really, really impressive camera tricks like an extended tracking shot covering the entire nightclub during the aforementioned music number. Additionally, the sets and costumes are gorgeous and you’re really transported to 1930s Hong Kong.
It’s also quite funny (to be expected when you put Bill Tung with Anita Mui and Jackie). For example, there’s a running gag where the driver keeps putting his foot in his mouth when he tries to involve himself in the discussion and resigns himself to keeping the car warm.
Miracles definitely has less action and more story, which can be a good thing, even in a Jackie Chan movie!
Where to watch: Netflix https://www.netflix.com/sg/title/81038936
4) Armour of God é¾™å…„è™Žå¼Ÿ 1986; Armour of God 2 é£žé¹°è®¡åˆ’ 1991
The Armour of God series isn’t an evangelical television series but Jackie’s attempt at making an Indiana Jones-type adventure. You can enjoy either movie separately but I’ll talk about them together since they’re a little similar.
Armour of God: Jackie Chan is Falcon, a daring treasure hunter. An evil cult kidnaps his friend Alan Tam’s girlfriend (Rosamund Kwan) to coerce Falcon into finding a treasure of religious importance to them. To do so, Falcon borrows the treasure from its rightful owner, whose daughter (the stunning Lola Forner) follows Falcon and Alan on their adventure. Highlights include a car chase involving a one-of-a-kind Mitsubishi sports car and a final confrontation with 4 murderous high-heeled assassins.
Armour of God II: Falcon is tasked by the UN to recover a Nazi stockpile of gold from a secret desert bunker and is joined by 3 beautiful women (Dodo Chiang as a desert expert; Eva Cobo as a Nazi’s granddaughter; Shoko Ikeda as some Japanese woman who tags along). The story waffles along and some of the girls are kidnapped, rescued, then we have a gratuitous shower scene (not that I’m complaining) and several small action sequences until we reach the Nazi base. There, the movie ramps it up to 11 and we have exciting fistfights on moving elevators, narrow catwalks and even a wind tunnel!
Between the two, I’d probably pick Armour of God 2 because the cast is more likeable since the girls are “helpless” but find ways to be useful and beat the bad guys up too, whereas the side characters in Armour of God 1 were pretty useless. There are more stunts and more jokes and the climactic fight in the wind tunnel is really exciting. I was particularly impressed with the stuntmen in movie 2. Armour of God 2 succeeds as an Indiana Jones knock-off and it has a rich sense of action and adventure.
Fun fact: Jackie Chan almost died jumping onto a tree in Armour of God because the branch broke and he fell and cracked a hole in his head. He’d later joke about this when he appeared on talk shows with Steve Harvey and Conan O’Brien.
Where to watch: Netflix
Armour of God: https://www.netflix.com/sg/title/20804979
Armour of God II: https://www.netflix.com/sg/title/497650
5) Rush Hour 1998; Rush Hour 2 2001
Righttttttt so fun story: I was a JC1 student who applied to join the film club and they rejected me after I said Rush Hour was my favourite movie. Well, maybe it was something else I said… But if it was because of the Rush Hour thing, they can go to fly kites because it’s no longer my favourite movie but it’s a damn good movie!
Rush Hour: Jackie Chan, a Hong Kong policeman, travels to Los Angeles to help recover his friend’s kidnapped daughter. However, the authorities don’t appreciate a foreigner’s involvement and send their least-liked detective, the arrogant maverick played by Chris Tucker, to babysit Jackie Chan. Can the two polar opposites learn to work together and rescue the hostage?
Rush Hour 2: Carter and Lee are holidaying in Hong Kong and Lee links a notorious gangster to the bombing of an American embassy and their investigation eventually leads them to a counterfeiting operation in Las Vegas.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think either of these movies is the pinnacle of modern cinema, but they’re both really, really, really, really fun!
The first movie does the buddy-cop cliché super well because Jackie Chan can’t speak English for nuts and Chris Tucker speaks fluent comedic screeching and they have fun with a few very low-hanging comedic fruits like Jackie Chan copying Chris Tucker saying, “What’s up, my n****?” The fight scenes are surprisingly good despite Jackie’s relative lack of control over the shoot. Memorable scenes include Jackie Chan trying to keep a priceless vase upright while fighting henchmen and Chris Tucker rescuing Jackie from falling to his death.
The second movie is slightly derivative but it keeps things fresh by making Chris Tucker the fish out of water in Hong Kong. Although he’s a bit obnoxious and some of his jokes aren’t that funny, he’s likeable enough that you put up with it to get to the good bits. The fight scenes aren’t significantly improved over the predecessor but they’re still energetic. One improvement is Chris Tucker’s own fighting skill so he could participate in the scenes more meaningfully instead of just fighting a bad guy in the back while the camera follows Jackie. The finale in the casino is also really funny (they fit in a lot of jokes here) and exciting because our heroes are thrust into many dangerous situations one after the other so you only catch your breath at the end of the movie. Another important addition is Johnny Lone (of Last Emperor fame) and Zhang Ziyi (who can kick ass) as our villains.
Where to watch: it’s easy to find online/rental
6) Police Story; Police Story 3: Supercop
Police Story features Jackie Chan as a detective who captures a gang boss during a massive sting operation and is later assigned to guard an important witness. However, he is later framed for a crime and gets into a mega-epic-final showdown in a shopping mall to recover the evidence and clear his name.
Police Story 3 sees Jackie Chan seconded to the mainland to help Michelle Yeoh infiltrate a gang. They are eventually sent to Kuala Lumpur to rescue the gang boss’s wife from the authorities and enter a final battle across KL’s streets, rooftops and eventually on top of a train.
It’s hard for me to decide between the 2 movies.
Police Story has better action and stunts. The first scene, the police raid, is a spectacle to behold. Starting with a shootout, the raid goes awry and devolves into chaos as cars careen down the slums and destroy everything on screen. After that, Jackie ends up hanging off a speeding bus by an umbrella. The final scene is a glorious display of violence as the entire Jackie Chan stunt team fight for everything they’re worth. They throw chairs, swing clothing racks and throw each other down stairs and escalators and even use motorcycles before the battle ends with Jackie Chan screaming as he slides down a 5-storey metal pole and crashes into the ground.
On the other hand, Police Story 3 has the benefit of a wider cast. Michelle Yeoh is an important addition to the film and she can pull off action as good as any of the male stuntmen. Her take-no-shit attitude is an excellent foil to Jackie’s carefree attitude and it’s funny to see them squabble over stupid matters. It also features more gunplay, which some people might not find as fun as fist fights, but I personally think it’s just a different kind of fun. Furthermore, there are still great stunts like Jackie Chan hanging off a helicopter and jumping onto a pile of durians (ouch!) and Michelle Yeoh doing a motorbike jump onto a van.
Also, Police Story 3 has better comedy. There were a few jokes in Police Story like Jackie’s girlfriend mistaking the witness for his mistress, but Police Story 3 has easily three times as many jokes. For example, Jackie’s girlfriend AGAIN suspects him of having an affair (this time with Michelle Yeoh) and they get a few laughs over that. (Side note: Maggie Cheung plays the girlfriend May and I don’t like her as an actress but she’s pretty good in this role.) There’s also an extended scene where Jackie hilariously mumbles his way through his backstory because he, in keeping with his character, has neglected to memorise the details of his fabricated past.
Both movies are really good and you should watch at least one of them.
Where to watch: Netflix
7) Drunken Master 2 é†‰æ‹³äºŒ 1994
A reboot of the original Drunken Master, Jackie Chan plays a highly-fictionalised version of Wong Fei Hung who mistakenly swaps a package with a Qing military officer (Lau Kar Leung). It transpires that the package contains an important Imperial Seal, which the British were trying to steal. Now, Wong Fei Hung must protect the Seal from those who would steal it, leading to a final battle with a horde of henchmen in a steel factory and a showdown with a high-kicking villain (Ken Lo).
This was directed by Jackie Chan AND Lau Kar Leung, who gives this movie some cinematic polish that’s sometimes missing from more brain-dead kung fu flicks. It also means that we get a taste of both Lau Kar Leung’s classic-type choreography (e.g. at the start and throughout the middle) and Jackie Chan’s modern, high-energy frenetic style (e.g. all the drunken boxing scenes and the middle mob fight).
The fights, particularly the final duel, are probably the best of Chan’s career and possibly in all of action cinema. At about the 1/3 mark, there’s a scene where thugs try to steal the package from Wong Fei Hung and his mother (Anita Mui) throws him bottles of foreign liquor so he can use his drunken boxing. When he finally gets drunk, the fight transforms from a standard (in other words, very good) Jackie Chan fight to a spectacular one.
Near the end of the movie, our hero’s on the back foot and he’s in a bit of trouble so he gets drunk and then he goes nuts with the drunken boxing and wins. According to Roger Ebert: “It may not be possible to film a better fight scene.”
At this point, I should credit Ken Lo (in his film debut) as one of the great martial arts villains despite his lack of screen time. It’s only because Ken Lo could fight so well that Jackie’s eventual triumph is so gratifying.
Lastly, the side characters are quite memorable as well. Ti Lung plays Wong Kei Ying (Jackie’s father) and he’s a stick in the mud but you know he’s a badass. Anita Mui, playing Wong Fei Hung’s mother, excels to the point that she’s our primary comedic relief in a movie with friggin’ Jackie Chan!
It’s hard to overstate how good this movie. The only way you’ll get it is if you actually watch it yourself!
Where to watch: it’s easy to find online/rental
So that’s that – my favourite Jackie Chan movies. Maybe he’s become a bit of a sellout in the last few years but I still think he’s a great guy. After all, he’s got to keep making movies so his stunt and production teams have work and he can’t afford to get on the wrong side of the authorities. At any rate, whatever his personal failings have been, he’s definitely brought smiles and thrills to people all over the world for the last 50 years and he’s become an important symbol of Chinese cinema. I hope you have as much fun watching the movies as I did when writing about them. Have a good recess week!