Hong Kong action-comedy superstar Jackie Chan is growing in popularity in this country and he recently signed on with an American distributor to further broaden his U.S. horizons.
But Tower Theater regulars here in Salt Lake City have seen Chan in quite a few films over the past few years, as this unique combination of Bruce Lee and Buster Keaton blends wild slapstick comedy with even wilder stunt work. (Chan does all his own stunts, then includes outtakes of his painful mistakes under the end credits.)
A new Chan flick opened at the Tower Friday, "Armour of God II: Operation Condor," a sequel to one of his biggest hits, with Chan reprising his role as "Condor," a comic adventurer who is part James Bond, part Indiana Jones and part Harold Lloyd.
Some of the comedy is a bit quirky and may seem odd to Western audiences, but most of the movie is made up of rapid-fire stunts and very funny slapstick, which are universally hilarious and eye-popping sometimes at the same time.
The film opens with a sequence that seems to spoof the opening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," with Chan in a cave deep in the Amazon jungle, where he finds valuable gems, which the local natives tell him he can take. But then he violates the tribe's law by drinking the water! During the ensuing chase, Chan escapes in a huge plastic bubble that takes him on a long end-over-end ride down a ridiculously steep cliff.
After the credits, the film's main story begins with Chan being summoned by the United Nations for an important assignment, and reluctantly finding himself teamed up with a tough female agent. Later, she reluctantly gives in to Chan's bringing another woman on board and the trio is off to find a cache of gold stashed somewhere in the Sahara Desert, left there by Nazis who stole it from a number of Western allies.
But plot is secondary to action, and there are quite a few scenes carefully choreographed to thrill, amuse and bemuse the audience. It was also a good idea for Chan to find some new scenery for his antics, since so many of his films take place in Hong Kong.
In addition to demonstrating amazing athletic prowess on the screen, Chan also wrote and directed "Armour II," and deserves acknowledgment as an amazing action filmmaker. In fact, if Van Damme, Seagal, Stallone and yes, even Schwarzenegger really wanted to give their action films some punch, they'd turn to Chan for tips.
"Armour of God II: Operation Condor" is not rated but is in PG-13 territory for violence, a couple of vulgar remarks and some brief partial nudity.