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Operation Condor 2: The Armour of God

(1999) ** 1/2 R
89 min. Dimension. Director: Jackie Chan. Cast: Jackie Chan.

/content/films/4323/1.jpgAny movie made by Jackie Chan in the late '80s/early '90s is the cinematic equivalent of a big smile. It's hard to stare it at for long without smiling yourself. Armour of God—released on home video in the U.S. as Operation Condor 2: The Armour of God—isn't Jackie's best work, but action junkies won't feel they wasted their time watching it. It's plenty fun: as per the Jackie Chan standard, it's total nonsense, but unpretentiously entertaining and occasionally ingenious. It's also known by Chan fans as the film that, according to legend, nearly cost the star his life when he took a header out of a tree, fracturing his skull.

Chan's martial arts stardom was built largely on the understanding that he did his own stunts, though there's at least one shot in Armour of God that evidently uses a double and plenty more that might have (perhaps due to the aforementioned injury). No matter: Chan does plenty of dazzling fight work here, as well as some impressive acrobatic tricks. Playing an adventurer known as the "Asian Hawk" (a.k.a...Jackie!), Chan also turns in a pleasingly goofy, broadly appealing comic performance. Since the Asian Hawk is a mercenary acquirer of priceless relics, Armour of God cheerily rips off Raiders of the Lost Ark right from the start, with a sequence that finds Jackie stealing a sword from a disconcertingly caricatured African tribe, then running from them and escaping by air. But can Indiana Jones say he once toured as a member of a pop band? No—no, he cannot.

It's two of Jackie's former band mates that get him in the most trouble, when Alan (Alan Tam) comes knocking and begs Jackie to help rescue Lorelei (Rosamund Kwan). Matters are further complicated by the three's one-time love triangle, but Jackie agrees to go after the girl, who's being held by baddies who want to complete their set of pieces of the Armour of God, said to give its owner great, supernatural power. Jackie and Alan reluctantly team up with May (Lola Forner)—whose father is not coincidentally also an Armour of God collector—and head off to a monastery/evil lair peopled by a sinister high priest and some not-very-prayerful monks. In this and other sequences (like those involving Jackie's tricked-out car), it's easy to see James Bond grafted onto Indiana Jones.

Trimmed by nine minutes and re-scored, the American version is an affront to final-cut purists, but there you are. Chan's highly skilled integration of fighting and humor transcends the Three Stooges and approaches the inventiveness of one of his heroes, the likewise death-defying performer Buster Keaton. Armour of God doesn't have any of the most memorable of Chan's stunts and fights, but it's vintage Jackie all the same, dating as it does to his most creatively fertile period.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Street date: 4/17/2012

Distributor: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment does a solid job in porting Operation Condor 2: The Armour of God over to Blu-ray. Presented in its correct aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the film looks its age: it comes with the dust and dirt one might expect of a Hong Kong action film circa 1986, and the overall impression is soft, especially in light of the expectation most Blu-rays set. That said, this is roughly how the film has always looked and will always look, with more resolution than standard def DVD can afford. The transfer is film-like, detail and color are good, and the image shows no sign of digital meddling or artifacting. Sound doesn't dazzle, but that's true to the limited source material; the track is lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and it does its best to make the most of a dubbed dialogue track and muddy music and effects that can't get extra mileage out of a surround field. No bonus features are included, but fans—especially first-time adopters—may be enticed to pick up the film due to the budget price point and hi-def upgrade.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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