Movie Fact

Theatrical Run: 21/01/87 - 19/02/87
Box Office: HK $35,469,408 (new box-office record then)
Distribution Company: Golden Harvest HK Ltd
Director: Jackie Chan
Awards: Jackie Chan Stunt Team nominated for Best Action Design (HK Film Awards)

Plot Sypnosis

Jackie Chan plays Asian Hawk, an explorer who makes a living by stealing relics and treasures from tribes and selling it to collectors who have the money to pay for them. A religious cult group wishes to complete the collection of the 5 pieces of Armour of God, which is believed to possess supernatural powers and will help their religion to prevail over the whole of mankind. The head of the cult group ordered his men to kidnap ex love interest (played by Rosammund Kwan) to threaten Hawk to steal the remaining pieces of the Armour of God for them. Meanwhile Laura's anxious boyfriend, Alan (played by (who else!) Alan Tam) rushes to Jackie for help. With the help of a beautiful Count daughter, May (played by Maria Delores Forner), the trio sought to rescue the damsel in distress, and for Jackie, to obtain the full set of the mystical Armour of God.

Comments

The movie still, with a serious Jackie bearing his chest, revealing the firecrackers strapped to his body, is one of the ever-lasting images I had of Jackie Chan when I was young. (as if anyone cares!)

To set the record straight, even though many claimed this to be one of Jackie's best, there are not really many fight scenes in it, one at the beginning and one (though a very long one) at the very end. Save for the car chase in the middle, there is not much action in the middle. But still, it doesn't matter. Anyway, when you saw how great and long (in duration) the end fight was, plus the leap onto the hot-air balloon, and plus the fact that this movie nearly killed him (where he fell about 30 foot and landed with his head on a stone, which cracked his skull and rendering him deaf in his right ear and a hole on his head, forever.), you can't miss this one. It doesn't have that good overall feel and balance of Project A, but this movie sported a unique look of its own - that of Jackie portraying an Indiana-Jones type character, one who knows how to fight of course. Of course, look alone is not enough, there had to be substance, entertainment and (for Jackie's case) top-notch action to carry the movie from start till end. I was initially quite excited when I saw Jackie's tribal image in Who Am I and thought that maybe it is an adventure movie, just like what AOG was, but in the end it turned out to be a big letdown.

Some Internet reviews I saw of this movie wasn't so encouraging. This can be due to: 1. the version they are watching. Most likely it is a butchered version: it is well known that US distributors love to cut out non action scenes, making the plot more action saturated, but at the same time, illogical and at times, incoherent and silly. 2. Watching movies is very much a cultural thing. Dialogue that is witty and funny in Cantonese or Mandarin just doesn't deliver as well in English. What's worse is when the original soundtrack is changed as well. Alan Tam sang 2 great songs in the movie, it's a genuine pity if they were replaced. On the other hand, Western audience may not appreciate them anyway. One review I saw wrote: 'a bad synth soundtrack (including some comical Canto-pop)'

I personally thought that AOG is a little darker than its sequel Operation Condor. For instance, the scene where Jackie dreamt of himself being chased by a mysterious car as Laura and Alan eerily waved to him from a distance. And the dazed Laura, being drugged and hypnotized by the cult, added to the dark side of the movie, as she schemed to inject Jackie with drugs that will make him do the cult's bidding.

The action is top class, symbolic of the man at his physical prime. Watch out for the 2 consecutive backflips (left pic) from the top of a tall rock structure to the ground. The stunt which nearly killed him - where Jackie had to jump to a tree in between two rock structures, and using his own weight, tilt the tree branch just enough so that he has can drop his body off into the space beyond the second rock structure - looked comparatively simpler. This just underlined the hidden dangers of movie-making where even simple stunts can cost lives. It is quite well known that when Jackie returned to filming (several months later) after recovering from his injury, he sported a longer hair style than the short crop original director Eric Tsang had given him. I was not quite sure whether there were any doubling for Jackie while he was recuperating. There were 2 spectacular backlips (in addition to the earlier 2 just described), and being a suspicious fan, my curiosity is always aroused whenever Jackie's face is not shown (during the execution), though to be fair, intentional 'face-showing' sometimes need to be sacrificed for clearer camera angles and more fluent action flow.

Beautifuly executed. (l) avoiding spears thrown at him, (r) dropping to the grasslands below

There is a neat car chase in the middle when Jackie and Alan were chased by the cult lackeys on motorbikes and jeeps. This is more Hollywood style, interesting, but not really what Jackie Chan fans are looking for, though not implying we wish to do without. :-)

Fast forward to the final showdown, now this is what fans are eagerly waiting for. Jackie didn't disappoint. After Alan and Laura finally managed to find their way out (with some obvious fumbling), we are left with Jackie battling it out with the monks. The group fist-fight is magnificent, smooth flowing without any break (break, for instance, as in those 'damsel-in-distress' kind of situations, it is better without Laura and May around here!) , and Jackie is invincible, defeating all of them with reasonable ease. The second exciting group fight against the 4 Amazon women was more chaotic and less fluent, though it compensates by injecting more humour and comedy. Like how Jackie was kicked in his butt form behind and waddled awkwardly to a safe spot for a quick relief. Of course, the quite famous scene where Jackie accidentally punches one of the Amazon lady's breasts is another funny moment. Anyway, unlike the earlier fight, Jackie this time was outfought by the 4 women, and had to rely on wits, retreating and counter-attacking when the chance arises. One cool tactic utilized was standing on the wooden floor on the second storey, which due to the small gaps in between the planks, causes the attacking women to fumble in their high heels. As expected, Jackie finishes off the 4 women one by one, and being in the good old days, he won fair and square - no freak deaths or sudden accidents so typical of his present day fights (recall Donnie Yen in Shanghai Knights).

"Lend a hand at once!" Alan says it all, as the trio steers the balloon to catch the falling Jackie.

I like the way the other 3 main actors (Alan Tam, Lola Forner and Rosammund Kwan) appeared again in the final scene, yes, the part where Jackie leapt off a cliff onto the top of a hot-air balloon. It creates a nice 'helping-each-other-out feeling', and none of the 3 actors, especially Lola Forner got left out of the final scene. So unlike Jackie's latter day actioners like Runble in the Bronx and Mr Nice Guy where Jackie is very much a one-man show and the other main actors tend to get left out totally in the end finale.

And speaking of action, that leap from the cliff onto the hot air balloon in mid air was not done in one fluent shot. There is only one in a million chance of Jackie hitting the balloon exactly in the windy sky. Nope, the leap is made up of different scenes shot separately, though the good editing (esp the shot of the hot air balloon nearing quickly) makes it seems as though Jackie 'really did it'. To his credit, the shot of him floating in the clear sky (middle pic)means Jackie had to learn skydiving/parachuting beforehand in order to film it.

 
The leap off the cliff.
Done separately, the skydive in mid air. No need to turn your head Jackie, we know it's you.
Filmed separately again. Fans have commented that the balloon is fixed on the ground and Jackie just jumped onto it from a helicopter, or some tall structure. Look at the bottom left corner of the pic and you can guess it's a tree.

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Memorable Scenes

1. This took place in the midst of the movie's opening chase scene. After some exciting action that involved 3 magnificient backflips, 2 mid-air leaps (one of which is the one that almost killed him), now its time to take a break for some comedy.

Go on....try it!
Jackie is cornered and surrounded by the natives, who are prepared to throw spears at him right away should he try to escape. Jackie tried to be friendly and tossed them a can of beer (I think so). He then demonstrated how to open the can and drink it, prompting them to follow him, since it's a hot day anyway. Anyway, the can tossed to them happens to be a smoke bomb, where fumes engulfed the whole place once the lid is pulled. I had this brief obsession with opening canned carbonated drinks after watching Jackie opening his, practicing diligently until the foam flows out nicely around the rim, without squirting and hitting my face.

2. This scene stood out mainly because of the song sung by Alan Tam. The 80s was not only a period of prosperity for HK movies, but also when Cantopop really developed into a force if it own, thanks to stars like Alan Tam and the late Leslie Cheung. The scene I am talking about is the part where Jackie, Alan and May (Lola Forner) got a car and drove out into the suburbs to hand the ransom to Laura's kidnappers. Funny moments in this MTV-like scene had Jackie accidentally peeing on Alan Tam's trousers when the latter turned around to see who was passing them by, and the part where Alan was arguing with Jackie (as seen in left pic, driving the car) on the direction until the map he was holding onto got torn into 2 pieces by the strong wind, after which Alan shut his mouth up and let loose of the piece in his hand as well.

3. This scene has qualified as a definitive moment. Go here to find out what is is.

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My Favourite Dialogue

1. This took place just the night before Alan was supposed to hand the ransom to Laura's kidnappers. Jackie tried to console the dejected and worried Alan. May comes over and tried to be helpful...

Jackie: No point getting worried. You won't see the kidnappers until tomorrow.

May: I'll go with you two…

(Jackie looks at her skeptically)

May (getting on the defensive): Why are you staring at me like that? Don't think women are good for nothing. I was the runner-up in last year's European Women's Shooting Competition. With me, you'll be safe.

Jackie (slowly and deliberately): Last year's competition…only 2 women took part?

2. I think the following lines really added to Jackie's street-wise and practical nature in the movie, something which everyone can relate to and understand. So much more convincing and believable than he unselfishly donating millions of dollars to the Children's Funds (leaving none for himself) towards the end of Who Am I. I know this is the movies, but still, I prefer to see something more reflective of human nature.

Cult leader: Trying to get one piece of Armour of God from me?

Jackie: Not one piece, but one set. If no one objects, I'll take it.

Cult leader: Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?

Jackie: I always obey my God's orders. What I eat, where I live, these are all given to me by my God. What he tells me to do, I can only say "Yes", never say "No".

Cult leader: What is your religion? What is the name of your God?

Jackie: I believe in an all-powerful religion (coolly pops gum into his mouth, chewing slowly)..... The name of my God is (rubbing his index finger against thumb) MONEY.

 

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Conclusion

AOG was first shot in 1985, but only released in 1987. Made during the high point of Jackie's fighting career, this movie is a must-buy. Some may say it is because this is the movie that almost killed him. I would like to add that this is, by itself, a good action/kungfu movie as well.

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Extras

Below is an extract taken from Screen Power (Vol 1 Issue 6) Magazine which reviews the Miramax cut of the movie.

November saw the release of Miramax's redubbed, recut "Armour of God" on home video. The title has been changed to 'Operation Condor 2" in an attempt to avoid discontinuity confusion with the previous release of "Operation Condor.

The new voicework is highlighted by Jackie handling his own dubbing chores. Meanwhile, Alan Tam's character has been saddled with an annoying British accent. While the overall transfer is well done, some quality control problems are evident: there are instances where Jackie's mouth moves but nothing comes out and Lola Forner has been rechristened to "Lola Porner" during the title credits.

Otherwise, the Miramax cut features the usual nipping and tucking for Western consumption as well as some political revisions for political correctness. Jackie's Asian Hawk character is considerably less cynical in the new version: his sarcastic applause at Alan's performance to gain Laura's sympathy in the cell has been changed to pleased applause that Alan has shown he truly loves her.

Likewise some of the film's quirkier elements have been lost in translation, such as Alan guilt tripping Jackie out of his bad humour by giving him his favourite bean curd. But the Miramax cut rewards audiences with a picture perfect print, Jackie's own dubbing, and a first for a recent Jackie western release: his own singing voice during the end credits on the English language ditty "High Up, On High."

My criticisms:

1.

The title has been changed to 'Operation Condor 2" in an attempt to avoid discontinuity confusion with the previous release of "Operation Condor."

Rubbish! Do you see people renaming The Phantom Menace as Star Wars 4? Leave the name alone! Why can't they just call it Armour of God?

2.

there are instances where Jackie's mouth moves but nothing comes out

If I am new to Jackie and watching this movie, I will think this movie has poor production values.

3.

Otherwise, the Miramax cut features the usual nipping and tucking for Western consumption as well as some political revisions for political correctness.

This is like modifying Chinese cuisine, preparing it differently to suit Caucasian taste buds. The end result is something which turns off Chinese people, whereas the Caucasians will take it down well, but still enough to replace their staple diet of fish and chips.

4.

Jackie's Asian Hawk character is considerably less cynical in the new version

Jackie is being marketed as a nice guy. So all bad things, even in movie characters, have to go.

5.

his sarcastic applause at Alan's performance to gain Laura's sympathy in the cell has been changed to pleased applause that Alan has shown he truly loves her.

That sarcasm part is one of my favourite parts in the movie. Funny and witty.

6

Likewise some of the film's quirkier elements have been lost in translation, such as Alan guilt tripping Jackie out of his bad humour by giving him his favourite bean curd.

This is again one of my favourite scene. But (again) a case of modifying Chinese food to suit Caucasian tastes.

7

But the Miramax cut rewards audiences with a picture perfect print, Jackie's own dubbing, and a first for a recent Jackie western release: his own singing voice during the end credits on the English language ditty "High Up, On High."

I know this is exaggerating. But I want to get my point through - this is akin to taking away a few slices of meat, and compensating with peas. Frankly, I don't like to hear Jackie's voice speaking English. It just doesn't go down well with the movie's street wise and savvy character. Jackie singing an English song? With his standard of English, do you think he has a chance with the viewers used to Britney Spears and Ricky Martin? Please!!

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Armour of God (1986)