Armour of God

Always looking to reinvent his persona during the 1980's, Jackie wanted to do something that was both larger and more international than any of his previous films. He settled on a character – Asian Hawk – who was to some degree based on Indiana Jones – an adventurer and treasure hunter – but in a modern day setting.

Though the film is interesting in a number of ways, it also has its share of problems. There are a few excellent action set pieces – but there is also a large amount of time that takes place during the middle of the film in which very little of interest happens. The main weakness of the film though is the total lack of chemistry between Jackie and his co-stars. The presence of Sammo or Yuen or even Maggie Cheung is very much missed in this film. Instead Jackie relies primarily on Alan Tam, but Tam’s character gets increasingly annoying as the film goes on. Still the beginning and end action set pieces are a great deal of fun and make this – if not one of Jackie’s better films – still one that should be seen.

Almost like a Bond film, it begins with a terrific prelude as Jackie steals The Sword of God from an African tribe and escapes – with some fabulous somersaults thrown in – by bobsledding down a steep hill with the tribe in close pursuit. It was during this opening sequence – when Jackie jumps onto a tree – in which one of his most serious accidents (brain hemorrhage) took place and the movie was brought to a stop for quite a while (the accident is shown in the outtakes).

It turns out that this sword is one of the five pieces of the Armor of God – antiquities from the Crusades – and a religious cult wants to appropriate all five in hopes that it will give them immense powers. To force Jackie to help them, they kidnap his ex-girlfriend, Rosamund Kwan, in a surprisingly bloody shootout. Jackie was once part of a band along with Rosamund and Alan Tam called The Losers (a play on Tam’s real group, The Wynners) – and she chose Tam over Jackie. Still, Tam gets Jackie to agree to help rescue Rosamund. Along for the adventure is also Lola Forner (the pickpocket in Wheels on Meals) as a rich girl whose father owns three pieces of the Armor of God.
Other than a decent motorcycle/car chase though the film wanders around for quite a while waiting for something to happen. Jackie definitely needed to add something to the middle section to spice it up as we get little but Alan Tam whining about everything and some adolescent romantic complications (Jackie playing coy with Lola). Tam at times almost single-handedly makes this film difficult to watch. Nothing against Tam per se – just that his character is someone that badly needs a kick in the pants.
All the waiting proves worthwhile as the finale of the film is a twenty-minute action fest with some excellent choreographed fighting with Jackie against a large number of monks – and then in a classic fight – against four savage black Amazon female fighters wearing deadly stiletto high heeled shoes.  This really is a bizarre action scene – as these muscular women (or transvestites?) all clad in body fitting leather deliver some amazingly swift kicks and batter Jackie around for a while. Finally, the film ends with Jackie jumping from high up on a cliff onto the top of a hot air balloon. I am not sure what to make of this ending – a great stunt – but anti-climatic in a way – and the way it is edited makes it difficult to determine whether that was really Jackie jumping.
Though this film is considered a classic by some, I didn’t find it nearly as exhilarating as some of his earlier films such as Police Story or Project A. There is an overall lack of rhythm to the film, a real stop and go feeling to it. I don't know how much of this was due to the delays caused by Jackie’s injury (check out how his hair length changes through the film) or to the fact that Jackie took over the director reins from Eric Tsang a third of the way through. And the poor chemistry and dull dialogue between the characters make the lack of action much more noticeable than in a film such as Wheels on Meals that also had only a few action scenes.

As a small point of trivia the Singers in the film were listed as Carina Lau, Kenny Bee, Clarence Fok and Anthony Chan and the assistant director was Stanley Kwan – who was to direct Rouge the following year.

The version released in the US was actually released as Operation Condor II – even though it was made four years before the sequel. This was because the sequel was released first in the States. I didn't notice any significant cuts in the American version - a bit more of The Losers singing, a short dream sequence from Jackie and a fairly big section after they rescue Rosamund and she tries to seduce Jackie. I am not sure why this was cut - but it doesn't really effect the film.

My rating for this film: 6.5