"Don't we hunt pirates?"—Police Chief (Bill Tung)
Inspector Chun (Wai Lam) is a hard-headed supercop whose sixth sense about crime has made him the most powerful and influential lawman in Hong Kong. Too bad it is all a fraud: Chun is on the take and stages arrests to make himself look good. Indeed, everyone in the Hong Kong police force seems to be on the take.
Everyone except intrepid Naval policeman "Dragon" Ma Yung (Jackie Chan). When the British authorities of Hong Kong want to take down Chun and his operation, they send Dragon to pose as Chun's new deputy, knowing this incorruptible hero will clean up the town.
Don't worry if you missed Jackie Chan's previous turn as Dragon Ma in 1983's Project A. Hong Kong action movie sequels rarely require knowledge of their predecessors. Although Project A 2 picks up mere minutes after Dragon spectacularly defeats a horde of pirates, you do not really need to know what happened before to follow this film.
I take that back. You do need to know that Project A, a rousing adventure with Jackie and his best friends Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, was a much better film than this one.
Project A 2 looks pretty good on the surface. High production values, sumptuous sets and costumes, and a surprisingly political subtext (communist revolutionaries v. mainland Chinese imperials) conjure a vivid picture of a Hong Kong just after the start of the 20th century. And the film starts off rather promising, with Jackie as an Eliot Ness type trying to clean up his own district and bring down a corrupt cop.
But the film never quite fulfills its promise. Maybe the problem is that Jackie Chan, stepping in as director, seems overwhelmed by the costumes and sets, preferring to point the camera at them than distract us with something exciting. But more likely the problem is that the action setpieces are just too spread out and scaled down compared to Chan's best work. Shortly before shooting Project A 2, Chan severely injured himself on the set of Armour of God, nearly cracking his skull open in a bad fall (he still has a hole in his head from it). There is the sense in Project A 2 that Chan is taking it easy, preferring to stage ponderous scenes like the one where he sneaks around a house trying to avoid bad guys instead of fight them. And when he does fight, he does little that he has not done before in terms of props or staging.
The movie does kick into gear with a long, Buster Keaton-influenced chase sequence in the last 15 minutes, but it feels anticlimactic. In the meantime, there is a lot of talking (including a speech about political neutrality that is supposed to occur at a major plot turn, but really feels like a non-sequitur), some plot twists that go nowhere (Dragon is accused of a jewel theft, then forgiven for no clear reason, then rescued by the people who framed him), and a brief fight scene here and there.
Presented in a slightly blurry transfer by Dimension, Project A 2 looks pretty—or at least would if the print were sharper. But the 5.1 soundtrack is a big waste: it is pinched by mediocre source material and a painful chopsocky dub. The original Cantonese soundtrack is not included, nor are there any extras. But even beyond that, what Project A 2 is most sorely missing is the presence of Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. The original Project A boasted a witty script, furious fights, and great chemistry among its leads. Project A 2 is a time filler, a chance for Jackie to warm up for his costly jazz-age period piece Miracle. On its own, Project A 2 does not amount to much.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
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