(US Video Title: Operation Condor 2: The Armour of the Gods)
Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.
Harrison Ford never tried to
bribe the natives with beer.
In a lot of his films Jackie Chan most resembles an improbably large kid playing dress-up. In Armour of God, Jackie dresses up as Indiana Jones. It isn't like the movie, written and directed by Chan himself, even pretends for a moment not to be ripping off Raiders of the Lost Ark. The opening, in which Jackie steals an idol from hostile natives, slavishly apes the opening of Raiders. But while the inspiration is obvious, Jackie made sure the body of the movie was something Hong Kong audiences wanted to see.
Ironically, it's the parts that are least derivative of Raiders that may reduce its entertainment value to westerners. The plot of Armour of God is largely a romantic comedy, concentrating on all of the misunderstandings that develop between Jackie and his two costars.
The setup is as follows: Asian Hawk (Jackie) and Alan (Alan Tam) were once lead singers in schlocky band called The Losers. Laura (Rosamund Kwan, from Once Upon a Time in China) was a backup singer. Asian Hawk fell in love with Laura, and vice versa, but Hawk left her and the band to pursue a life of adventure. So Laura settled with Alan.
Years later, out of the blue, Alan contacts Asian Hawk. It seems Laura has been kidnapped, and Alan needs Hawk's skills to free her. The kidnappers are looking for (and here's where the Raiders-style stuff comes in) the Armor of God, a battle suit in five parts that will give its owner mystic powers. Alan somehow got his hands on one piece. The kidnappers, an order of Satanic monks, have three pieces, and a duke in Spain has the last piece. So Alan and Hawk convince the duke to give them his piece, though they have to take his marksman daughter with them.
Rescuing Laura from the monk's mountainside castle turns out to be easy and happens with little incident, so Alan and Hawk manage to hold on to their pieces of the Armor. What then follows is a protracted and somewhat boring bedroom farce where Hawk and Alan both try to prove to their satisfaction that Laura stills loves them. At the time this may have been what Hong Kong audiences wanted to see, and it may have been novel for them to see it coming from an action idol like Jackie Chan. But this part of the movie is a way too long-winded and predictable for our tastes.
The three compadres on the road.
Luckily for us, it turns out that Laura is under the spell of the monks and she steals the Armor from Alan and Hawk. So Hawk has to infiltrate the monk's castle (again) to rescue Laura (again) and hopefully steal the valuable Armor. Here's where the movie really shines, as we see Hawk fight and stunt his way through the corridors of the castle.
Standout scenes are many. At one point Hawk holds off an army of monks with a flaming log. Nothing phallic there! A little later a food fight breaks out. But the best fight scene in the movie is that last one, where Hawk takes on four blaxploitation amazon women in skimpy leather outfits (who mysteriously change into Chinese guys in drag whenever they have to take a fall) in a battle for the Armor. Hawk is at a disadvantage because he doesn't think it's right to hit a woman, and the amazons keep aiming their stiletto-heeled kicks right at Hawk's family jewels. The fight is fast, furious and funny, with both sides of combatants switching strategies several times in an attempt to neutralize the other side's advantages. Kung-fu fighting is never so much fun as when it's in a Jackie Chan film!
There are stories about the making of nearly every Jackie Chan movie, but the stories about this one are some of the most spectacular yet. While filming the opening scene, Jackie fell 30 feet from a tree, hit his head on a rock, and put a hole in his skull. However, we understand that the rock was even worse off for hitting Jackie's head. In any case, you can see this proud moment in Jackie history in the out-takes at the end of the film. We also see out-takes from Jackie's love scenes, which he claims scared him even more than falling from a tree.