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Project A boxset

Project A and Project A: Part II, available together in a 3-disc DVD boxset.
 
 
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Project A: Part II

cast: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Rosamund Kwan, David Lam, and Carina Lau

director: Jackie Chan

101 minutes (15) 1987
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Hong Kong Legends DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Four years after the first film, the creative team that brought you Project A return with Project A - Part II. Despite being less well thought of in kung fu circles than the original film, Part II manages that rare feat of being a sequel that is superior to the original.

Returning from his successful mission against the pirates, Dragon Ma is assigned again to the police. However, this time he is given the command of a whole district and soon manages to motivate the corrupt and lazy force that he inherited. The film centres on a plot involving, on the one hand, the Hong Kong government and the communist rebels in China and, on the other, the intelligence services of the Chinese Empress and a corrupt police officer.

Despite having the same creative team behind it, this film sparkles where the original was dull and is intelligent where the original was stupid. The broad humour is toned down and is replaced by a politicised plot (well... a plot where Chan gets to make speeches that try to even-handedly support both China and Hong-Kong's independence) full of intrigue and emotion. Instead of rubbishy slapstick interspersed with the odd fight scene, we're given far more lavish and spectacular scenes that go on for quite a while and take up more of the film's running time, meaning that even if the film's writing is creaky at times, you simply don't have time to get bored as the action comes thick and fast.

Part II seems to have benefited from a substantially larger budget than the first part and everything is on screen. The sets are lavish (including a 'giant hamster wheel' full of paper) and the film has a huge cast of extras, despite only four years between the films, Part II oozes quality and attention to detail where the first part seemed to be a series of set pieces poorly strung together by stupid plot.

Chan is as insanely skilled as ever and puts together some jaw-dropping fight scenes, particularly the one where he is chained to someone else whilst people come after him with axes (on the traditional Chan blooper reel during the credits there's a scene where a cameraman gets injured when someone throws an axe directly at the camera). It is telling that between part one and Part II, Chan directed three films. Two of these films were the immortal Police Story and Armour Of God, both of which are classics and both of which boasted quite large budgets. Clearly the four years between the two films transformed Chan as a director as Part II feels as much like a proper film as Project A doesn't.

The Project A films are now available as a boxset rather than as two separate DVDs and this is clearly a canny move by Hong Kong Legends. Interestingly, the original film boasts an entire DVD of extras while Part II has only an interview. The cynic in me might suggest that this is because the second film is stronger than the first but either way, lumping the two films together results in something of a curate's egg. For the Chan completists it is undeniably a good move as you now get both films in a nice shiny box but for the casual kung fu fan this is unfortunate as I would suggest steering well clear of the first film, not least because the first two DVDs feature some of the most ugly and poorly designed DVD menus I have ever seen. Maybe it was just my telly but when selecting things on the menu the highlighting changes the colour of the text from dark red to even darker dark red and is almost impossible to see.

In conclusion, this is a great piece of kung fu cinema and is well worth tracking down. The attractiveness of the boxset though will ultimately depend upon how much you want to see the first film.
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