It was easy money, most of these films mainly focused on the action & the story was basically just an afterthought (in some cases). Whether the story sucked or not, audiences didn’t leave empty handed as these films were chocked full of stunts, action, comedy & fight choreography that puts chop-socky films of the 60’s & 70’s to shame. It was a golden era (in my opinion), especially since ‘Golden Harvest’ was responsible for the best kung fu action films & most of Jackie’s early work (Golden Harvest being the same company in charge of the fight choreography behind the Ninja Turtles live action film of the 1990‘s). Thus brings me to today’s review.
The ‘Jackie Chan 8 Film Collection’ was released in 2010 by Timeless Media (a division from ‘Shout Factory’) and contains two discs on a single package, each containing four feature films.
-Battle Creek Brawl (1980): A film I’ve never seen in my childhood, but one I was very glad to see recently. A Jackie Chan film set in the 1930’s & starring side by side a young, bald & equally badass Mako. So Jackie Chan (Can’t remember his character’s name) enters a fight competition in order to save his brother’s girlfriend & protect his father’s restaurant from mobsters. I have to say, this is a very fun film full of comedy & fist fights that reminds me of a Burt Renolyds/Dom DeLouise brawler film form the late 70’s.
Battle Creek Brawl is a must see film if you’re in a good mood for action & comedy. Despite noticing the language barrier between Jackie & most of the cast & crew, you could kinda tell Jackie’s having a great time acting on screen. Regardless of some sloppy line readings with a heavy accent, Jackie did his best, but his ultimate strength lies in the stunts & fighting.
Crime Story (1993): I’ll go ahead & say it, this is basically ‘Police Story’ but more grittier & a lot more violent (An observation I discovered after watching ‘Police Story‘). Despite that, the film isn’t that bad, but it’s strength lies more in the cinematography & camera work. The story is solid, the action kept me occupied, but the look & style of the film mimics that of directors like Michael Bay & Tsui Hark with swift camera moves & vibrant colors, it‘s artistically unique. Enough about the camerawork, (yet again, don’t know his character’s name, but in most of Jackie’s dubbed flicks he plays himself. Yeah, he’s that badass. He doesn’t play the character, he is the character!) Jackie fights through corruption & his PTSD to find a kidnapped businessman. Every fight scene is just as well made as it’s shootouts, but includes mass amounts of explosions, which brings me to the first fault of this DVD. When more than one film is put in a DVD, sometimes the video would be compressed in order to fit in more than one movie in the DVD’s limited space. So slow paced scenes are shown clearly, but once the screen is filled with everything happening at once, you can start to see the image quality degrading to a pixilized mayhem.
This film was fun, though despite some plotholes, it was a good old action film with fights, shootouts & a pretty neat story.
Not to forget, the film ends with a disclaimer saying what we just saw was based on true events. I’m sure the people behind the film were saying that the subject matter was based on stuff that really happened, but I’d like to think everything, including Jackie Chan rescuing a kid from an exploding apartment building, was real. Hear that, criminals? There’s a cop in China who can fight like Jackie Chan & he’ll kill you eight times before you hit the floor.
City Hunter (1993): Based off the manga & anime, City Hunter is a goofy & whacky action flick containing over the top violence (for a PG-13 film) & slapstick. If not for the title, I would have thought this was a Hong Kong adaptation of ‘Hudson Hawk or a screwed up live adaptation of Street Fighter since this film is wholly responsible for Jackie Chan in a Chun-Li costume.
Running at an hour & thirty minutes, City Hunter’s first act is full of tiny itty bitty moments that are more annoying than funny, feeling like an endurance test to see who in the audience can withstand clichéd slapstick bits. Since I’m not familiar with the anime or manga, the slapstick threw me off as I was expecting a movie similar in tone with Crime Story. Both the comedy & action do improve as the plot kicks in when womanizer City Hunter (That’s his name. Finally, Jackie is no longer playing himself) sneaks abroad a cruise ship to find a missing girl he was hired to retrieve. The story is half assed, but it kinda works as we’re dropped into this world similar to ours, but this world has weird cartoon physics accompanied by cartoon sound effects & everything is very colorful. I admit, there are some stupid jokes (On the film’s third act) that have left me laughing & probably wouldn’t work if some other film tried to do those same jokes, especially the out of place Street Fighter scene.
Fans of the anime have thoroughly discussed how this film wasn’t a great adaptation & blame Jackie Chan for the changes, but I’ll say it was pretty darn entertaining. I know, I sound like the outsider since I’m not a huge fan, but even as a film it’s well made, fun & stilly.
Magnificent Bodyguards (1978): Now we get to Jackie’s earlier work, a chop socky film with exceptional fights, but terrible story & forgettable characters. A band of three fighters, a princess & two of her sword wielding cousins escort her ‘sick’ brother through a dangerous land. Leaving aside the amateurish quality of filmmaking & action, the story was one of the worst I’ve come across. Half of it is due to the fault of the poor dubbing, sloppy translation & you can tell the creative team was doing that guerrilla style of filmmaking where they came up with the story & scenario on the spot. Aside from those gripes, the fighting was entertaining & it’s funny to hear music tracks from ‘Star Wars’ being used for a chop socky film. Magnificent Bodyguards is not the greatest film, but it’s one choice if you’re in the mood for some classic kung fu that would play in a double bill at a Grindhouse.
And now for the two golden eggs of the henhouse.
Police Story (1985): Ever since I was a kid, this film has been on my ‘To Watch‘ list. Network channels (such as UPN or Telefutura) never aired this film on their matinee weekends, & I couldn’t find any copies anywhere (This is Pre-Netflix). You’d be lucky enough if you find a print ad for HK action flicks put on by an independent company who specializes in niche films. I’d watch interviews (Most notably when Kids WB would interview Jackie Chan after episodes of ‘Jackie Chan Adventures’. I’ll get to that gem soon) & spliced in Jackie’s responses they’d play scenes from many of his films, one of them being a scene where Jackie is hanging on to a speeding bus. That just made me want to see this magnum opus even more.
In terms of story, it’s pretty much a generic cop film which was pretty clichéd, even in 1985. In terms of action & stunt work, this film is the pinnacle when it comes to how far Jackie Chan will go to achieve the best stunts. Police Story is an extravaganza, showing audiences the sheer tenacity of Jackie’s boundary pushing stuntwork & fight choreography. You have Jackie hanging to dear life on a speeding double-decker bus, Jackie being tossed through walls of glass (I doubt that was plexi-glass) & the greatest one being one you’ll have to see for yourself.
It’s a film I wished I could have seen sooner, it would have blown my 9 year old brain.
Police Story II (1988): This sequel begins where the last film abruptly ended. This time the villain from the first film (A generic rich man Mafioso) is shoved aside to make way for a team of domestic terrorists threatening a wealthy businessman. Lured back to the police force he had quit from, Jackie aids the police to nab these bombers & is paired up with a group of hip street smart cops to nab these terrorists. Sadly, those characters aren’t fleshed out as Jackie is given most of the spotlight.
This time around there is no generic story, but the end stunt is one you should still see to believe, it even outdoes the final stunt from the first film. Police Story II provides a good story (Thankfully there isn’t as much annoying character arguments between Mae & Jackie, which really agitated me) with tons of excellent stuntwork that rivals the first film.
Though I did enjoy the first Police Story, I believe Police Story II is a much better sequel that outperforms the original.
Dragon Fist (1979): Jackie as Tang Haw-Yuen seeks vengeance for his fallen master who was beaten by egomaniacal master Chung, but later on Chung turns a new leaf after his wife’s suicide.
Caught between his nemesis’ amnesty & his wife’s sickness, Tang Haw Yuen relieves his grudges against Chung. Suddenly the amnesty between the two dissolves as Yuen begins to work for a gang in order to recieve medicine only the gang has, the same gang that’s been terrorizing Chung’s students around town.
Just like Magnificent Bodyguards, Dragon Fist is brought to us by ‘Lo Wei Motion Picture Co’, but unlike Magnificent Bodyguards, Dragon Fist is not the best, but it’s at least better. The issue with the story is that it’s very melodramatic, something that would of worked for a Hong Kong soap opera, not a martial arts film. Despite that, I found the story somewhat better than Magnificent Bodyguards.
This film also continues the tradition of stealing soundtracks from big Hollywood films (This time they rip music off ‘The Sand Pebbles’) & the action is above exceptional. With Jackie Chan in charge of choreography, the film provides diversity rather than the monotonous ‘chop, sock, chop, sock, chop’ many films of this era partook in. It’s a good film to watch on a boring Saturday, not a great recommendation, but alright.
And now we come to the final film in this collection.
The Protector (1985): A film I watched a lot as a child with my dad & enjoyed it for what it provided. Not to be confused with the 2006 Tony Jaa film of the same name, The Protector tells the story of Billy Wong (Jackie Chan) & Danny Garoni (Danny Aiello) who travel to Hong Kong in search of an American woman who had been kidnapped & smuggled by a drug kingpin’s goons. James Glickenhaus directs this film providing sleaze & shootouts, but this time around this production is also occupied by Golden Harvest who provides the kung fu, two elements that provided enough testosterone to feul my 12 year old brain. Though I loved this film as a kid, I have recently began seeing the problems as I rewatched this with a more critical mind & approach.
Unlike in Battle Creek Brawl, Jackie does not look like he’s having the greatest of times, thus bringing us to his dull, mechanical expression, clearly showing he just wants out of this film. This film has some hefty behind the scenes issues between the star & director James Glickenhaus. Glickenhaus is a master of sleaze, so as you’d expect he wanted an all-American sleaze flick in the style of his early films ‘The Exterminator’ & ‘Shakedown’. Jackie saw what Glickenhaus was doing & didn’t understand it. He wanted directorial involvement which consisted of removing the over the top language, nudity & a hand in editing the fight scenes (Which many HK action enthusiasts believe were the worst shot scenes of the film). This scuffle led to there being two versions of this film (The Chinese cut removes the nudity & language) & thus also gave Jackie the initiative to create Police Story which was more tame & family friendly. Though I don’t agree with the tampering of a director’s creative vision, the scenes & sequences Jackie wanted to cut out were unnecessary. The TV edit was basically the Chinese cut of the film, which must be the version I watched as a kid since I don’t quite remember seeing nude ladies putting cocaine inside fruit.
In short, Jackie’s fight scenes were excellent as always & Danny Aiello had some amazing lines in that film. Jackie’s performance was mechanical & dull, which leads me to feel that Danny would have been a better choice as the lead since he pretty much gave it his all. Call it my nostalgia, I enjoyed the action in this film, but the acting does not hold up. The story was a little too much for an action film, but at least it’s no Magnificent Bodyguards.
Is this film collection worth the spend? If you aren’t picky about compressed film quality or not receiving any extras, then this is worth the buy. I bought this copy at a local Target for $5, for eight Jackie Chan films that aren’t ‘The Tuxedo’ or ‘The Medallion’, it’s a steal!!! Most of these films were hard to find, it’s a huge rarity to find all at once. It’s the movie set I wished existed as a kid & most of the films are fairly tame enough for the whole family to watch (Except for Crime Story & The Protector). My only complaint of the DVD set is it doesn’t come with extras (Deleted scenes, music tracks, etc.) & the films aren’t in the order as the package advertises. Another gripe (Though this one is more opinionated) is the many films Jackie has starred in that contain an overly jealous girlfriend. There’s the character of Mae in both Police Story films, there’s the orphan woman in ‘City Hunter’ (Forgot her name too), there are ones in ‘First Strike, Mr.Nice Guy, Super cop (Aka: Police Story 3)….. I get it, jealous girlfriends be one sided, that’s a cliché I didn’t mind as a kid that is starting to irritate me now in my cynical age. Ya needs to fix those issues Jackie, see a therapist.
Find it new, find it used; it’s worth all the money & all the time.