On his most dangerous mission ever, the world's toughest secret agent isn't going in alone.
One of Jackie Chan's finest films springs on to DVD in yet another lackluster Buena Vista release.
The first time I saw Operation Condor two years ago, I wasn't overly impressed. Jackie Chan's style was relatively new to me and, at the time, the nation was being inundated with film after film from Jackie—it was basically too much of a good thing. I saw the film once and dismissed it as yet another typical Jackie Chan movie. However, upon re-examining this film on DVD, my feelings have been completely reversed, although this is not due to the quality of the disc itself.
In Operation Condor Jackie Chan plays the role of Jackie (for some reason he loves to play characters that have his name), a secret agent, code-named Condor, given the task of tracking down hidden Nazi gold. Jackie teams up with Ada, a representative from the UN, and Elsa, the daughter of a Nazi officer linked to the hidden gold, to locate the hidden treasure. The trio journeys to North Africa where it is believed the Nazi regiment entrusted with handling the gold was buried alive in an underground base. While searching for the hidden base the trio must fight against "ruthless" treasure-hunters and the single surviving Nazi from the doomed regiment—both determined to locate the fortune of gold.
Those movie-savvy visitors to this site must be thinking at this point, "Nazis? North Africa? Isn't that a bit like Raiders of the Lost Ark?" Actually, it's extremely similar to the adventures of Indiana Jones. Operation Condor is, in effect, Jackie Chan's comedic take-off of Indiana Jones. The similarities between the films are seen starting from the opening sequence of Operation Condor where Jackie must escape hundreds of angry natives while retrieving precious jewels. While most of the film is obviously modeled after the Indiana Jones trilogy, Jackie Chan adds his own unique humor and flare to the film, creating an entertaining experience.
Whereas most Jackie Chan films contain a large action sequence towards the beginning of the film, and then one final large action sequence at the end of the film, Operation Condor has great action sequences throughout. The problems with Jackie Chan films usually lie in the storyline, which is frequently over-developed and just plain boring. Besides, when you go to a Jackie Chan film you're not going to see the breathtaking performances of the actors and the intriguing storyline. Operation Condor is easily one of the most action laden Jackie Chan flicks I have ever seen.
Buena Vista treats Jackie Chan's Operation Condor to their standard treatment on DVD. The non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen video transfer is fairly solid. The video transfer holds up well on 4:3 displays with no compression artifacts, well-balanced colors, and a consistent black level. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track on this disc is nicely mixed. Although dubbed, dialogue is well placed on the front sound stage and sound effects are flawlessly blended into the track as well. The occasional surround effects on the 5.1 track also helps to accentuate Jackie Chan's high-flying on-screen action. Finally, Buena Vista has packed this disc to the brim with extra content. That's right, you get not one but two (!) "Film Recommendation" screens to gaze at! Peruse these screens to see what other high-priced, content-anorexic discs you can purchase from Buena Vista.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
To begin with, Operation Condor has a less than flawless video transfer. I detected some grain during darker scenes of the film, and even more distracting were the occasional nicks and scratches visible on the transfer during certain sequences in the film (especially during scenes in the African desert). Of course the fact that the video transfer is non-anamorphic does not help its case much. The transfer falls apart on widescreen displays with incredibly rough and pixilated edges. Naturally, the resolution of the image is greatly decreased on widescreen displays as well, making this one disc that will prove to be of lower quality in the future.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Buena Vista's discs are just too high priced. Extra content, or even an anamorphic transfer, would greatly increase the value of their discs. The addition of these features might even make the $25 price tag somewhat reasonable. But when you can get great Jackie Chan movies on DVD from New Line (discs that include anamorphic transfers and extra content) for $5 less than Buena Vista's discs, why even bother with these discs?
Although Operation Condor is one of Jackie Chan's best films, there are no redeemable qualities present on this DVD release. Chan fans should make this disc a required rental, but a purchase, especially for $25, is definitely not recommended.
Jackie Chan, as always, is acquitted. Buena Vista sentenced to a sandy death below the dunes of North Africa. A fitting death for a company that can easily be considered the Nazis of DVD.
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