Project A | aka Pirate Patrol (1983) Review

"Project A" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Project A" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Jackie Chan
Writer: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang
Producer: Raymond Chow Man Wai
Cast: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Dick Wei, Kwan Hoi San, Law Ho Kai, John Cheung, Kwan Yung, Lee Wan Faat, Chan Chi Fai, Chan Ling Wai, Chang Seng, Cheng Hong Yip, Cheung Chok Chow, Johnny Cheung, Chin Kar Lok
Running Time: 105 min.

By JJ Hatfield

Damn it’s good to see Jackie in his prime! Everyone looks terrific in this movie directed by Jackie himself. At this period in his life Jackie was still frickin nuts and doing insane stunts and fights, often directed by Sammo Hung who most definitely is a fantastic fight choreographer. Yuen Biao has a lot of screen time to show off those amazing acrobatic talents and martial arts and even a bit of acting.

Although there is no intricate plot it isn’t missed. After all when you watch a film such as this you don’t do so looking for award winning dialogue.  The viewer expects to see some cool tight fights and some crazy stunts mixed with Jackie humor. Well this movie will more than fulfill all expectations!

Jackie has made so many films it is nearly impossible to say which is the best. Best in what way? It is difficult to compare many of his films. Even though his better movies are usually martial arts based it still is damned impossible to declare one single best. However “Project A” has to be near the very top. It really is that good. There are just enough of the right elements in the right mix to make this a rather well rounded “three brothers” movie.

In the early 1900s Hong Kong law enforcement was battling with pirates who took advantage of its location and established crime connections to plunder at sea. With so much wealth and so many passengers going back and forth particularly with the British the vast stretches of open water made ships ripe for the taking. Jackie and his unit are in the Coastguard (water army) and the primary goal is to rid the waters around Hong Kong of pirates. Unfortunately so far they have had little luck in capturing their foe.

The group is shipping out soon and the crew go to a tavern to forget their worries about not returning from this assignment. There is also a group of Hong Kong Police drinking at the same tavern. As things sometimes do a small matter becomes exaggerated, tempers flare and what follows is one of the absolute best cinema group fight scenes ever!  They must have had every stunt guy and more involved. The screen is packed with action and people fighting! Excellent, intricate action everywhere. All choreographed, with no guys hanging out on the fringes. Everybody on screen is fighting! And we even discover where the music comes from for once.

Fighting doesn’t convey adequately what is really happening many times. Especially with Dragon (Jackie) and the younger captain played by Yuen Biao. Jumping off of walls, tackling each other and some great moves on the bar are more like small stunts. Even when humor is used it was really quite good. There are several extended scenes that are hilariously funny!

This is one of the absolute best use of humor in any of Jackie’s films!

Dragon meets an old associate Fei (Sammo Hung) who insists he has given up his illegal ways and gone straight. Despite their differences they are deep down friends. But they are also on opposite sides of the law. This isn’t “A Better Tomorrow” though everything is lively, upbeat and entertaining! The music is perfect for the chase scenes and really adds to the movie. There are a lot of chase scenes! On foot, up and down rickety wooden stairs, on bicycles through the narrow alleys of Hong Kong, in and out of shops and up and down streets. The cinematography is quite good especially the action sequences, as you would expect from Jackie’s team. The focus is on the mark with perfectly balanced scenes. The fights are shot to the best possible advantage and there is also some hand held camera work. The massive fight scene (there is more than one) action finale is a thing of beauty! Dick Wei is at his peak of performance and is terrific as the pirate leader. Jackie, Biao and Sammo all have their very different techniques pushed to the limit. These guys know each other so well they can move like one. This is a rare treat!

Yes this is the movie where Jackie borrows a scene from a Harold Lloyd movie “Safety Last” made in 1923. Jackie often borrowed scenes from Lloyd and Buster Keaton. In the spirit Jackie uses it I consider it an homage versus a scene steal. Aside from the actual clock hang there is absolutely no similarity in the plot. In his book Jackie stated he tried to do this stunt several times but would come back inside. (That is why there just happens to be a guy hanging out the tower window) Finally he just did it. It’s an absolutely crazy stunt and once you see it you won’t ever forget it! I know Jackie will certainly remember. People forget that you need a bit more than guts to do stunts. You also have to be in phenomenally great shape! If you have seen this action extravaganza watch it again. If you have not get it immediately! It will more than satisfy the desire to be totally entertained!

Awards:

4th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Winner: Best Action Design (Jackie Chan’s Stuntmen Association)
Nominated: Best Actor (Jackie Chan)

There really was a Project “A”. Early in the 1900s pirates were a serious problem especially in the waters near Hong Kong. They were mercenaries and merciless. Pirates do still exist today and when caught are usually executed. The British/Hong Kong officials created a special plan to go after the pirates, calling it Project “A”. There are still pirates out in the waters, and not just around Hong Kong.

Project “A” is a winner all the way around! Highest Recommendation!

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 10/10


By Brmanuk

Overrated is a word that springs to mind when watching this comic swashbuckling kung fu flick. I found the first 40 mins very boring with very average fight scenes and a silly bar brawl. The person dubbing Jackie’s voice didn’t fit the character at all and it was often hard to make out what the actors were saying. The last hour of the film was excellent and it was worth renting just to see the “bike chase” (and the scenes leading up to it) alone. Overall, a decent Jackie flick which is worth seeing a few times until you die of boredom.

Brmanuk’s Rating: 7.5/10


By Ro

WOW!!! Despite everything I read about this film, I was still not prepared for it’s absolute perfection. The action advances the plot, the plot and characters motivate the comedy, and the comedy enhances the action. Kudos go to Edward Tang for the screenplay and double kudos to Jackie Chan for both co-writing the screenplay and directing the film. The pacing is flawless, there isn’t a wasted moment in the entire movie!

While Jackie is undoubtedly the star, Samo Hung and Yuen Biao get plenty of opportunity to display their considerable talents. This movie has a barroom fight that will ruin you for Westerns forever! I was especially interested in the now-famous clock tower scene since I saw Jackie explain how he shot it in Jackie Chan, My Story. Apparently, he decided to have the stunt team let him hang there until he actually couldn’t hold on anymore! Who know Jackie used The Method??? My God! Did he actually fall on his head?!? Twice!?!

Just one word about the tape I bought from Advantage Video. It’s a ‘Venom Video’, dubbed in English (with German subtitles – go figure!). The picture quality is first rate and most of the dubbing is very good, but they decided to use Chinese voices for some of the characters, notably Samo Hung, and they were extremely hard to understand. Boy, did I wish I knew German! I have no problem with Samo on Martial Law, but it took a couple tries to understand everything his ‘stunt-dubber’ was saying. I’d suggest you’d be better off with subtitles, but I’m currently in the middle of trying to work my way thru Project A II, also by Advantage and the subtitles are HORRENDOUS!! (Apparently Americans are part psychic and can read tiny white letters on a white background, while those poor, non-psychic Germans need large letters edged in black so they’re visible on any background!) Whatever you decide, you MUST buy, rent or borrow this movie. You’re not a Jackie Chan fan without seeing it!

Ro’s Rating: 10/10


By Jordan

This, the first of the excellent ‘three brothers’ films, is one of my favourite JC movies. The stunts are big, the fights are excellent and there is a decent plot (which also proves that a period film can be made with no need for a shaolin temple or the likes). The bar room brawl lives up to it’s reputation, the bicycle chase is uncomparable, the final fight with Jackie, Samo and Yuen Biao vs. ‘Pirate Sam’ was very well done and the password scene was god-damn hilarious “A dumb man asks a lama for a trumpet. The lama doesn’t understand and gives him a pumpkin…” Although in some places it is a little boring, the very best of the ‘three brothers’ films and one of Jackie Chan’s finest cinematic masterpieces.

Jordan’s Rating: 9/10


By Spiff

Project A is without a doubt one of Jackie’s finest. The movie rolls from one well done action scene to another, and stuck in between are comic bits that one can actually laugh with, instead of corny slapstick that is sometimes seen in Jackie’s movies. Every single fight/action scene is everything you would come to expect from a good JC movie. The stunts are outrageous and from a certain point funny, but than at the same time amazing and very original, enough to make you get down on your knees and start chanting “I’m not worthy.” Not a dull moment passes in this movie that’s packed with unbelievable stunts and fights. They don’t get much better than this. A must see for any JC fan!

Spiff’s Rating: 10/10


By Dead Channel

Ugh. Got this one, and it was one of the most horrendous, worst Jackie Chan film I had ever seen. I literally forced myself to finish this one. I’m sure it has it’s good parts, but I gave it a good once-over and it did nothing for me. Provided it had Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, it was totally worthless. The movie is totally uneventful until the very end, when they infiltrate the big bad pirates lair. Even the end fight didn’t seem all that great. My favorite part (the only good part in my opinion) was when Jackie let his bike ghost-ride into the bike racks at the Coast Guard academy (or wherever it was). By the way, don’t read into any hype about “the greatest bar-room brawl ever composed on film”. I’ve seen better fights/action in Road House with Patrick Swayze!

Dead Channel’s Rating: 2/10 (one for pure pity and one for the bike part)


By Numskull

Two things, and two things only prevent this movie from getting a perfect 10/10: the story’s moments of incomprehensibility and the substandard interaction between the 3 brothers. Since this movie is so crammed with action sequences, a few extra scenes that clarify the plot wouldn’t have hurt it in the least. And, although Jackie and Samo have a few scenes together, Yuen Biao (a.k.a. The Perpetual Underdog)’s talents are wasted in an insignificant role as a cop. If I had watched this movie without knowing that he was in it, I probably wouldn’t have noticed him.

Aside from these flaws, PROJECT A is pure gold. Many a fine brawl erupts that is loaded with whole new types of pain. Just watching some of them is enough to jar your preserves. Filter the dookie out of all the waste excreted by the stuntmen and you could start your own blood bank.

My personal favorite was the fight in the V.I.P. club populated by tight-assed, elitist shit-fucks who probably piss seltzer and have lurid dreams in which wealthy young women shed one of their seventeen layers of clothing before waking up with a perfectly dreadful bead of perspiration soiling their imported blankets or their pampered skin. I hate rich people (“and when I finally become a rich person, I’m gonna hate poor people. It’s the American way.” -Kirstie Alley from one of the last episodes of CHEERS).

And speaking of which, did anybody else notice the striking similarity between the PROJECT A scene in which Jackie opens the door to his office to find everyone clustered around it, eavesdropping on him and the CHEERS scene in which Sam opens the door to his office to find everyone clustered around it, eavesdropping on him? Either the CHEERS writers pulled a Spielberg or they share a trans-oceanic, psychic rapport with Jackie and don’t know it. Anyway, see the damn movie. Bad things will happen to you if you don’t.

Numskull’s Rating: 9/10


By Dan-O

In this wet and wild outing, Jackie puts on skimpy sailor suit and enjoys getting himself handcuffed, climbing large poles, rolling around with big, sweaty pirates with nipple rings, and….

Woah, wher’d THAT come from?!!? EEEEEEWWWWWW! I gotta take a shower now.

Despite the homoerotic undertones (real or imagined), this is the kinda Jackie Chan movie that you’d sell a vital internal organ to see in it’s original theatrical form (I’ll sell one of my livers. I can get by with one). This is also the kind of Jackie Chan movie that makes me proud to be alive in a day and age when we humans, as a species, can appreciate such a fine quality film as this. First Strike, although fun in spots, is now to me nothing more than dried fecal matter between the toes of this movie. Jackie was obviously in TOP form for this picture, as were the other 2 “Little Fortunes”. That head pirate is one wild lookin’ freak, but how would YOU know, unless you saw the film, in which case you shouldn’t even NEED to be reading this, so what the hell are you doing here anyway, huh, you lookieloo; you rubbernecking bastard, you’re holding up net traffic somewhere, and you couldn’t care less, could you, you cretin! GO BACK TO OREGON!

Lesson to be learned in this Mutha of all Sailor Movies: Just because they wear those uniforms doesn’t mean they’re gay; then again…… (Hey you! Please don’t send me death threats. I’m only kidding. Lemme see a smile. Thaaaats better.)

Dan-O’s Rating: 9/10 flagpoles


By Vic Nguyen

A true classic from action master Jackie Chan. This man performs some stunts that nobody will ever believe. In this film, Jackie plays Dragon Ma, a wiseacre who works for the border patrol sailors, but they soon have to disband to join the police force in order to catch some wanted pirates. Connected to the plot are some of the most incredible fights and stunts ever shot on film, including a great bicycle chase and the fall from the clocktower that could have seriously hurt or killed Jackie Chan. That is what this man puts himself through to please his loyal fans. A must see picture!

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9/10


By Yummyspam

This was Jackie’s first modern movie, and probably his best. Jackie performs stunts that were unknown to the world at the time, and he does them as well or better then ever done before. This is the first of the “Three Brothers” films, which feature Jackie with his Peeking Opera Classmates, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.

I will sadly admit that the first half-hour of this film is pretty dull and unexciting. Normally, I would take off some points for that, but trust me, the rest of the flick more than makes up for it!!! After enduring some painful scenes of “coast guard” life, Jackie soon reverts to butt-kicking form. Jackie is certainly the star of this film. Sammo has less screen time, and Yuen seems to be in an extened cameo. Which is too bad, as the combination of all 3 is one of the highlights of Cinema.

Anyway, the things that stand out in this film are the bicycle chase, the legendary clock tower scene, and the dozens of fights that break out during this film.

Yummyspam’s Rating: 10/10

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About JJ Hatfield

i like movies
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5 Responses to Project A | aka Pirate Patrol (1983) Review

  1. T. J. Gushiniere says:

    Well JJ you have done it to me once again! An old favorite of mine to find in the closet and try to watch. Great review and one of Jackie’s best with co-stars Sammo and Yuen Biao. I don’t think anybody would be disappointed after viewing this one! I agree with you the stunts and fighting are exceptional. As you stated people do not know how hard stunts truly are, and how great of shape you need to be in to accomplish something daring that is now taken for granted! One of my favorite Jackie movies next to Armor Of God, and Dragons Forever!

    • JJ Hatfield says:

      Thanks for the compliment! I really wanted to try to encourage people to watch “Project A” , or watch it again : ) Jackie has made so many movies it is easy to have some be overlooked especially the “old” lol, films. But this is such a great movie I thought it deserved some attention!

      So here’s a question for ya’

      What would it take to persuade you to perform the clock scene for real?

      • I just got done revisiting Armour of God 1 and 2 and there is something magical about these 1980’s (or early 90’s) Jackie Chan movies that cannot be touched, even compared with today’s more intense choreography (Tony Jaa, etc). Jackie just has that charisma in everything he does, fighting or not.

        • JJ Hatfield says:

          So true! There is something special about that guy! I do love both of those movies! I even have stopped asking wtf Jackie was thinking with the “girls” fight but I never could hold it against him. In some ways, even still it’s like a part of him never grew up. The “five year old” in him still gets excited about doing nifty stuff. Even though continuity is not of special concern to Jackie…I just accept that’s part of Jackie. It just doesn’t seem as important. Okay I let him get away with that too,lol. It’s that charisma. For me the enjoyment I receive from movies like Armour of God 1 and 2 is so great who cares about continuity?
          Both are great films! And “Project A” is right there with them.
          No one could do them besides Jackie!

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