Film Reviews:

Armour of God

(Jackie Chan, HK, 1986)

[Armour of God] TITLE=In terms of its crossover to western audiences, Armour of God is up there with Drunken Master and Project A. Those familiar with Jackie Chan who have never seen the film are still likely to recognise numerous scenes from it due to their repeated exposure elsewhere in documentaries, Chan profiles, etc. The production of Armour of God is also infamous for what remains its star's closest shave with death after a stunt fall went badly wrong, putting Chan into a Yugoslav hospital and requiring an emergency operation to save a fractured skull and bone pushed in towards his brain. Thankfully both Chan and the movie that caused the accident survived.

The script is an attempt at blending the spy/gadget heroics of the Bond movies with the adventure of the Indiana Jones films. Chan plays ex-pop idol and notorious international treasure hunter the Black Hawk. When his ex-girlfriend is kidnapped by a clever antiquities collector, Chan is forced to track down and steal the five component parts of the legendary Armour of God in exchange for his former loved one. Chan is joined in his adventures by his former band member (and new suitor to his old girlfriend). The two set off around the globe to obtain the armour. Shot largely on location in Yugoslavia, Paris and the Palace of Versailles also crop up in what, by Hong Kong standards, was clearly a big budget production. As one would expect from a Chan-directed piece, the tension and drama of the Bond films is replaced here mainly with slapstick and comedy, oh, and the odd kung fu fight. Although, the copious amounts of Mitsubishi product placement throughout do echo a long-standing Bond tradition.

The final result however, isn't quite as good as one expects, indeed, many say the sequel is superior. Chan's direction is erratic. Much of the comedy isn't that funny. Even Chan's charm has been much more effective elsewhere. Whilst the fight sequences are broadly fine, the stunt set-pieces themselves could, on several occasions, be better shot to exploit their true daring. Near the beginning is a curious montage that cuts frantically between slow motion mass slaughter with footage of a Hong Kong pop idol performing live! The location filming is certainly an asset and the film is always visually appealing. As far-fetched nonsense it's an entertaining and undemanding hour and a half, but all too frequently the talky scenes and farce interplay between characters feel like wading through treacle. However, if it's car chases, smashing through street cafes (a la Moore-era Bond) to the sound of cheesy rock music you're after then you could do a lot worse. The, by now, standard selection of outtakes are screened as the end credits roll, but will be of special interest this time around for the (bloody) footage of Chan's near-legendary accident. 6/10

Rob Dyer

Region 2 (UK - Hong Kong Classics) DVD

If the film itself is disappointing then the presentation on this Hong Kong Classics release goes to great lengths to make up for it. Like most of their DVD releases, HKC's Armour of God disc has a decent set of extras and boasts a remastered print, a 16:9 anamorphic transfer, and choice of language options. The interactive menus are stylishly designed and (deliberately or otherwise) faintly recall those of MGM's Bond DVDs. There's a functional, 33 image photo gallery (individual selection from one screen of thumbnails); two short interviews, one with the star focusing on how the famous fight sequence with four black women was achieved (running 4 minutes) - with Chan speaking in English, and a three and a half minute chat (again in English) with Chan's manager Willie Chan about how they dealt with Chan's life-threatening accident.

There's a 35-minute Jackie Chan 'biography showcase'. Essentially an essay on the life and career of the star, it comprises of scrolling text put to music, selected images and a narrator. It is broken into 10 chapters with titles like "A Star is Born", "The A-List Beckons" etc. etc. Of limited interest to Chan afficionados, it nevertheless, provides some interesting trivia for those less knowledgable. It actually works better as an audio extra rather than sitting in front of the scrolling text. Finally, there are two trailers. A UK promotional trailer running one and a half minutes (that focuses heavily on the film's brief historical battle footage) and the original, four-minute, Hong Kong trailer (lots more pop music!). Fans of the film can ignore my review and buy this DVD with confidence. Although there were a few compression artifacts noticeable on my player, both the content and presentation is of an equally high standard and the whole package is put together with a fan's eye for detail as all the HKC DVDs are.

Rob Dyer

See also:

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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