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The Jackie Chan Collection, Vol. 2: 1983 – 1993 (review)

Recently I reviewed Shout! Factory’s massive Jackie Chan box set on this site, and now that the sequel has dropped its time to go back to the old salt mine and watch a new group of entries in Jackie Chan’s distinguished filmography.

This time, Shout! Factory is focusing on the period from 1983 to 1993 which essentially represents the very peak of Jackie’s power as a filmmaker and an action star.

So let’s do a deep dive on Jackie Chan Collection Vol. 2!

As with Volume 1, the film selection is interesting. Again, this is easily the most prolific and interesting period of Jackie’s long career but because of this the rights for many of these films are highly sought after. Shout! Factory chose an eclectic mix of action comedies for your perusal.

That said, even with the understanding that not everything was available for license, some of the choices really surprised me.

This is the key period of Jackie’s association with Golden Harvest and the biggest period of financial success for him until Rush Hour.

It also showcases his association with both Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao as the “Three Dragons” (See my retrospective of Dragons Forever for more information) though, because of rights issues this set isn’t a comprehensive set of their collaborations in the period.

Without further ado, the films collected, and my opinion thereof:

Winners and Sinners

We open with an interesting selection. One of the key franchises that cemented Golden Harvest’s box office domination in the early 80’s was the “Lucky Stars” series of action comedies which was headlined by Sammo Hung and a troupe of Cantonese comedians getting in and out of scrapes as they try to stay honest.

This is the first film in the series, and one of my favorite Cantonese comedies of all time, with most of the humor translating perfectly. The issue is that if you’re buying this set for Jackie, his involvement is basically an extended cameo. He’s got one extended action sequence with one of the greatest stunts of all time, but he’s only in the film for five minutes.

Great movie, but this is a Sammo Hung movie, not a Jackie Chan one.

**** out of *****

Wheels on Meals

Ignore the bizarre title, Golden Harvest apparently was superstitious about releasing a movie whose title began with “M” after the beating they took on MegaForce.

This is the pre-eminent “Three Dragons” film: Jackie and Yuen are good natured cooks running a futuristic lunch truck in Barcelona and Sammo is a private investigator wannabe who all get caught up in the local mob’s search for a beautiful conwoman who turns out to be an heiress.

The fights and comedy are absolutely exceptional in this film: this one of a half dozen Jackie films that you can argue is his career best. Jackie’s final fight with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez is the best fight of his career outside of the finale of Drunken Master 2. If this is your introduction to Yuen Biao, he’s incredibly electric, and between this and Winners and Sinners you’re getting Sammo at his physical peak. Great film.

**** out of *****

The Protector

Jackie’s ill-fated second attempt to break into the American market miscasts him as an NYPD detective trying to break up a drug syndicate with Danny Aiello as his partner. This is Jackie in a sleazy, hard edged, 80’s low budget actioner and your mileage will vary on how much you like that based on how fond you are of that style of action movie.

Jackie despised this film so much that he undertook massive reshoots for the film’s asian release to bring it more in line with his fans’ expectations of his style of film.

I actually think the American cut has more energy and flows better, even if the finale for the Hong Kong cut is undeniably better. Both versions are included so you’ll be free to decide for yourself.

American theatrical cut: ** ½ out of *****
Jackie Chan cut: ** ½ out of *****

Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars

The third film in the aforementioned “Lucky Stars” series that began with Winners and Sinners. This set omits the second film, which was a soft reboot of the series and is the entry with the most Jackie in it, which is odd for a Jackie Chan set.

The comedy is much less varied than in Winners– this is essentially a Cantonese sex comedy with an action plot sprinkled throughout. Jackie’s involvement is again, an extended cameo, but what action is here is very good.

Unfortunately, the comedy doesn’t hold up, and that makes this one a little bit of a slog.

** out of *****

Armour of God

After two questionable selections, business picks up considerably.

Jackie’s ode to Indiana Jones features the stunt that came closest to killing him, an incredible Mitsubishi kei car, the most violent sequence in any Jackie Chan movie, evil cultists, evil Amazons (and not the kind Jeff Bezos owns), and incredible stunt work. Mandatory viewing for any Jackie Chan fan, and the only thing that tops this picture on this set is the follow up.

**** out of *****

Armour of God 2: Operation Condor

Jackie is an absolute maniac in this one. Incredible action-comedy sequences highlighted by a sequence in an Egyptian hotel that plays like Sammo Hung directed The Pink Panther.

Remarkable chases, an absolute slammer of a final showdown in a wind tunnel. Jackie searches for lost Nazi gold with a beautiful but bossy expert, and the granddaughter of the Nazi who hid it.

This was one of the highlights of Jackie’s second run in America where it was released around the same time as Supercop and First Strike and it holds up as one of the most spectacular and well made Chan films of the 90’s.

The highlight of the set.

**** ½ out of *****

Crime Story

Jackie plays a cop dealing with PTSD who is investigating a kidnapping but is unaware that his partner is one of the kidnappers. The part was written for Jet Li who could not do the film because of other commitments and the studio was shocked when Jackie, looking for a change of pace role, eagerly signed on.

No comedy here as Jackie plays a very American style “cop on the edge” and Kirk Wong’s excellent direction recalls the work of Tony Scott. This picture is one of Jackie’s career highlights.

**** out of *****

City Hunter

Loosey goosey manga adaptation that Jackie did primarily for his Japanese fans, this film is the source of the clip, famous in the early days of YouTube, of Jackie fighting in drag as Chun-Li from Street Fighter 2.

Essentially an anime come to life, right down to bizarre reaction shots and nonsensical plot developments, your mileage for City Hunter will depend on how much affection you have for Japanese comic books of the 80’s and their adaptations. I’ve seen it twice and have no real desire to see it any more than that.

** out of *****

Final Assessment

For 80 dollars or thereabouts you’re getting absolutely stacked discs with a feature length documentary, new and archival interviews, outtakes, trailers, featurettes, deleted scenes, montages, still galleries, and commentaries.

The films presented are mostly very good, but the lack of the second Lucky Stars film may make completionists want to track down Eureka’s Lucky Stars set instead and buy the remaining releases piece-meal.

Still, four no doubt all time classics on a set of eight films for ten dollars a disc makes this an easy thumbs up.

Highly recommended.

 

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