Jackie Chan and Lam Wai in "Project A II" (1987)

35 Years Later: Project A II A計劃續集 (1987)

In 1987, Jackie Chan ruled the Top 10 Hong Kong box office with two movies including Armour of God <龍兄虎弟> and Project A II <A計劃續集>. The former, of course, became the highest-grossing Hong Kong movie at the time with a then-astounding HK$35.4 million.

The latter wasn’t too shabby either, where Project A II <A計劃續集> ranked at No. 3 with HK$31.4 million and the sequel was a significant leap in terms of financial success over the first movie’s HK$19.3 million. I love both movies but if I would have to choose between the two of them, I would personally pick the sequel.

Having recently revisited Project A II <A計劃續集> to coincide with its 35-year anniversary, the sequel benefits from some of the most memorable set pieces ever seen in a Jackie Chan movie (more about them later). The plot, which is again co-written by Jackie Chan and Edward Tang, opens with the surviving group of pirates (among them include Alan Chan Kwok-Kuen and Benny Lai) following the aftermath of the first movie. They took an oath to seek vengeance against Dragon Ma (Jackie Chan), who was responsible for killing their leader, Lo San Po (Dick Wei).

The pirates’ quest for vengeance is mainly served as a subplot as Project A II <A計劃續集> focuses more on Dragon Ma being transferred to the district of Sai Wan as the new police superintendent. From there, he finds himself dealing with the town’s gangsters led by Tiger Au (Michael Chan Wai-Man) as well as a team of revolutionaries (Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Rosamund Kwan and Ray Lui) and corrupted high-ranking officer Chun (Lam Wai).

The gambling den fight scene in "Project A II" (1987)
The gambling den fight scene in “Project A II” (1987)

I have to admit the story isn’t the sequel’s strongest suit and it tends to suffer from an uneven pace. And yet, Jackie Chan, who also directed the movie, manages to overcome most of the flaws with numerous well-staged action sequences. This includes a scene where Dragon faces Tiger Au and the rest of the gangsters (one of them starring Johnny Wang Lung-Wei, where he can be seen in The Twin Dragons <雙龍會> five years later) in a gambling den (an obvious but still effective rehash of the first movie except for the former takes place in a VIP club, where Dragon is looking for a hidden fugitive).

Then, there’s the elaborate chase involving Dragon and Chun handcuffed together while being attacked by the axe-wielding pirates. The scene itself is a quintessential example, which showcases Jackie Chan’s flair for mixing acrobatic martial arts choreography and incredible stuntwork with some slapstick-comedy moments.

The sequel concludes with a satisfying finale with another extended action sequence, beginning with Dragon facing the imperial agents played by Chu Tit-Wo, Lee Hoi-Sang and John Cheung Ng-Long. At one point, there’s an unlikely stunt where Jackie Chan actually gobbled a handful of hot peppers before spitting them onto the palms of his hands. It was a slapstick (and stinging!) moment that he ends up using such a method to rub his hands in the eyes of the agents.

The "Steamboat Bill, Jr."-inspired scene in "Project A II" (1987)
The “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”-inspired scene in “Project A II” (1987)

Project A II <A計劃續集> again sees Jackie Chan paying homage to the Hollywood silent-comedy greats and this time, it was the Buster Keaton-starred Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) and it can be seen during the collapsing bamboo wall sequence.

Although the action is the main highlight of the movie, let’s not forget about some of the funniest comedy moments as well. This is especially true during the elaborate Marx Brothers-starred A Night at the Opera (1935)-style sequence in Maggie’s (Maggie Cheung) apartment. Interestingly enough, Jackie Chan isn’t the first Hong Kong director to pay homage to the aforementioned movie after Tsui Hark did it three years earlier in Shanghai Blues <上海之夜>.

Project A II <A計劃續集> may have been missing Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, two co-stars who appeared in the first movie (they reportedly couldn’t make it to the sequel since the two were shooting Eastern Condors <東方禿鷹> at the time). In a perfect world, it would have been a great what-if scenario to see them reunite with Jackie Chan in the sequel.

But even without their presence, Jackie Chan himself does an overall good job taking centre stage in his typically energetic performance as Dragon Ma. It helps that he has a few reliable co-stars, notably Lam Wai in his sneaky antagonist role as Chun and Bill Tung as Chief Inspector Tung.

Just like the first movie, Project A II <A計劃續集> took home the Hong Kong Film Awards’ Best Action Choreography. The sequel was also nominated for Best Film Editing but lost to Final Victory <最後勝利>.

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