"Project A," a frequently funny 1984 martial arts comedy in which Jackie Chan directs and co-writes as well as stars, takes us back somewhere around the turn of the century when, according to Chan, Hong Kong's coast guard was engaged in a fierce rivalry with its cops.
As a stalwart of the guard, Chan leads a barroom brawl against a haughty young police officer (Yuen Biao), only to wind up under his command when the guard is abruptly disbanded, having been undermined by a traitor.
Chan knows, however, that pirates will have to be dealt with sooner or later--and that he of course will be in the midst of the fray. In this instance he's aided by his shady but helpful pal (comedian Samo Hung).
There's lots of wonderfully silly slapstick sequences, and there's an especially inspired sequence when Chan and a bad guy battle it out while enmeshed in the huge gears of a building clock--Chan even dangles from its hands, a la Harold Lloyd in "Safety Last."
"Project A" is good-natured fun, but it could have been much better.
The production design is tacky and cheap, always a drawback in a period piece, with one garish European-style interior so rickety that it wobbles even before it breaks away during combat.
Indeed, the film's whole sense of period is wobbly and vague.
"Project A," which has a running time of 1 hour, 46 minutes, would surely play better were it 15 minutes shorter.
'Project A' Jackie Chan: Ma Yu-Lung (Dragon) Samo Hung: Cheuk Yat-Fei Yuen Biao: Hung Ti-Chi Dick Wei: Pirate Chief "Three-Cannons" Lo
A Rim Films release of a Golden Harvest production. Director Jackie Chan. Producer Leonard K. C. Ho. Screenplay Chan, Edward (King-Sang) Tang. Editor Peter Cheung. Music Michael Lai. Sound Chow Siu-Lung. In Cantonese, with English and Chinese subtitles. 1 hour, 46 minutes.
MPAA rating: Unrated. Times guidelines: Its emphasis--more on comedy action than violence--plus swashbuckling pirate sequences, make this martial arts movie suitable family fare.
* In limited release at the Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica. (310) 394-9741.