As someone much smarter than me (around 99.97% of the global population at last count) said of the Beatles: “I envy the person that has not yet discovered them, as he is in for a treat.”
There are many people on this planet that I would freely admit I am at least a little starstruck by. Not to name-drop by I saw Michael Jackson, Jack Nicholson and Steven Spielberg at a Lakers NBA game several years ago and apart from the “Look there’s…” factor I had no urge to move from where I was in the stands to get a closer look or to attempt to make contact, I was simply seeing in person people that I had previously watched on TV and film. (Now in saying that I am not really a fan of any of the above, although of course I like MJ’s music and I admire Spielberg’s films in the main, so that may partially explain my indifference.)
Seeing as I live in a metro area I have been fortunate enough to see many of my favourite musicians and bands in person, in fact by my count there are precious few artists that hold prominent positions in my collection that I have not yet been able to see live, and usually because they have disbanded or are dead.
The list of the living goes something like this:
Outkast (Don’t tour.)
Prince (Doesn’t tour where I live.)
Living Colour (Haven’t toured Australia since 1993. Bit past it anyway.)
To tick any of the above off my list I would strongly consider an interstate trip if they do in fact tour Australia again.
And I’ve wracked my brains for 10 minutes and can’t come up with anyone else. By my reckoning I have been to at least 35 odd live shows and festivals since say 1996 and the groups I have seen most are De La Soul, Beastie Boys and You Am I, each 4 or 5 times.
So that’s music… As far as non-musicians I have another short list of those that might cause me to go to any length to meet. In coming up with this list I thought “Would I drive for an hour for a handshake or an autograph?” If the answer is no they are off the list.
– Latrell Sprewell (Ex-NBA player and coach choker.)
– Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler (Ex-NBA players.)
– Jason Kidd / Allen Iverson / Yao Ming (Current NBA players.)
– Barack Obama
– Bruce Willis
– Homer Simpson
– Jackie Chan
That’s it, I’m sure there may be more on the list if I were to update it in 10 years, but I also know that if I wrote the list 10 years ago everyone above (but Obama) would have been on it, so I can safely say I don’t change my mind too frequently.
But I’m here to talk about the great Jackie Chan.
It is somewhat depressing for me to admit that I didn’t discover JC for myself, but two boys around 2 years younger than me actually put me on the path to martial arts awesomeness.
In truth, Jackie Chan put me onto:
– Asian films, John Woo, Chan Wook Park, Jet Li, etc.
Which lead me to:
– Other Foreign language films, Let the Right One In, Guillermo Del Toro etc.
Which in turn lead me to:
– Independent films. David Lynch, el cheapo action films, Hal Hartley, Sam Raimi etc.
Which in turn lead me to:
– The Horror movie genre.
So it is fair to say that Jackie opened a lot of doors for me that I would no doubt have got to eventually, but probably not in my teens.
Armour of God
It was released in 1989 in Australia, direct to video I would venture. So I guess I would have seen it in the ensuing 24 months, when I was either 16 or 17 and at the peak of my impressionability. Prior to this I don’t think I would have even considered watching a subtitled or dubbed foreign language film, and nowadays I think they make up a good quarter of my movie intake, so that’s just another door that Jackie opened for me.
Jackie has said in the past that Armour of God was his take on the Indiana Jones franchise, and while I love the (first three!) Indy movies, this is one case where a remake or at least a reimagining is not a bad thing, as Jackie has tools that Harry Ford could only dream of even in his prime.
Jackie is Asian Hawk, an adventurer and relic collector who finds treasures and auctions them off to the highest bidder. He is a mercenary who is loyal only to the dollar and cares only for themselves, so in that case he is very similar to the guys that build boy bands and inflict them on the world.
To cut a long story short Jackie is asked to find the mythical Armour of God to trade for the wellbeing of his former sweetheart, and current girlfriend of one of his ex-friends Alan. They apparently had a falling out over her years before, but Alan hunts down Jackie when she is kidnapped, knowing that Jackie might be the best chance of finding and rescuing her. They initially approach a wealthy antique collector to see if he might relinquish his part of the armour, which was separated centuries earlier, he refuses but agrees to fund Jackie’s expedition to find the remaining pieces, as long as his (thankfully hot) daughter can go along to provide some eye candy.
And off Jackie, Alan and eye-candy May go to a castle that appears to be in Europe, where a drug running religious cult of monks reside, holding the girlfriend Lorelai captive for no apparent reason other than to justify Jackie kicking piss out of a bunch of robe wearing clowns.
That’s your plot right there.
Jackie pulls out all the stops for this one, he used his sponsorship with Mitsubishi to have them make him a hotted up car for the film, which looks horribly dated by today’s standards but helps out in the biggest and best car chase sequence that Jackie ever had in any of his films. Jackie’s best movies tend to look legitimately dangerous for everyone involved, with projectiles, weapons and vehicles flying about willy-nilly, and that is even more obvious than usual here with 4WDs and motorcycles stacking left and right, and pedestrians and bystanders having near miss after perilously-near miss.
The opening sequence shows just how inventive Jackie can be with mnimal planning, giving himself the best opportunity to show off his agility and taking advantage of some of the cool toys that are available to you when you are the biggest movie star in Asia.
Jackie saved the best until last though here, once the shit hits the fan and Jackie goes toe to toe with the bad guys there are a couple of fights that must be seen to be believed. Initially Jackie finds himself trapped in a large dining room with about 15+ assailants that he must hold off while Alan and Lorelai escape, and Jackie uses everything in the room to ward them off and buy time so that he might engage in fisticuffs with those posing the most immediate threat. Unlike almost all other karate flicks you never feel that the bad guys are waiting their turn or counting the moves until they punch, everything moves at a frantic pace and Jackie hits and get hit frequently and generally realistically, many of the kicks and punches definitely make contact.
So Jackie deals with those guys and moves on to find that the Armour is protected by four muscly black chicks, who can actually fight pretty well. All of the ladies have leather outfits and the pointiest of high heels, and they know exactly which areas of a gentleman’s person that are susceptible to high impact, again watching Jackie learn and adapt on the run in order to defeat these four attackers is a highlight.
It is quite well known now that Jackie nearly killed himself on this film, on what he called a fairly routine stunt, but which you and I would call crazy, jumping off a stone wall to grab a tree branch. Only of course when he grabbed the branch it snapped and he landed right on his head, nearly ending his career (and life). This lead to the JC staple of having the blooper reel running over the closing credits, with every missed stunt and cast injury being given its moment in the sun, showing that more than anyone else Jackie is more than willing to bleed and hurt in order to bring you the best action.
Something that he managed to do for another ten or so years up until Who Am I? in 1998. Since then he has managed to entertain with Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, and I still watch everything he does including dross like The Medallion, and the low point in his career The Tuxedo, but while it is still Jackie Chan, it ain’t for a second JACKIE CHAN!!!
Movies like Armour of God, the Policy Story series, and Dragons Forever are why DVD should have been invented earlier. Everyone has certain genres that they enjoy, and within those genres certain films stand out, it just so happens that in the martial arts genre at least 7 of the best 10 all time films are pretty much owned by Jackie Chan, and no-one in the game at present seems likely to change that. (Sorry Tony Jaa, prove me wrong.)
Final Rating – 9.5 / 10. You’d guess that the best martial arts actor of all time in one of his top few films would have to be good. And this one most definitely is.