Project A (1983)

Directed by
A Hong Kong cinema landmark
Reviewed by Simon on 2022-12-08

I think that by 1982 Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung realised they had taken the traditional kung fu film as far as it could go, with The Young Master and The Prodigal Son respectively, and were looking for ways to make use of their particular talents to impress audiences anew.

In Jackie's case the answer was using what must have been an uncommonly large budget for Golden Harvest to explore a relatively untapped period of Hong Kong's history, for a rowdy mix of action and comedy with a greater focus on stunts and brawling than conventional kung fu.

The result was definitely a step forward for Hong Kong cinema, one that cemented Jackie Chan's claim to be its preeminent star. It seems like no expense was spared to make PROJECT A as polished a showcase of his skill and charisma as he could deliver.

Sammo Hung backs him up, repaying the favour of Jackie's appearance in WINNERS & SINNERS (or possibly vice versa), and with Yuen Biao appearing in both The Three Brothers were born. It's testament to how naturally the three of them play off each other that they're still remembered as such despite only appearing in the same film a handful of times.

A vague story about pirates ties the skits, brawls and set-pieces together but isn't really the main focus of the film - though I guess nobody told Dick Wei that, as he gives 100% to his role as pirate chief Lo San Po. The story is coherent, not always a given in Hong Kong films, but it's paper thin. It does provide Jackie with an opportunity to deliver a surprisingly impassioned speech about corruption and giving the people of Hong Kong the respect and dignity they deserve though.

Mostly it's a light-hearted caper though, with Jackie paying homage to the physical comedy of the silent era whilst also setting forth a vision for the future of Hong Kong action cinema. Quite an achievement.