1991, 106 minutes, HDCAM, in Cantonese with live-projected English subtitles
Directed by: Jackie Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Dodo Cheng, Eva Cobo Garcia, Shoko Ikeda
Monday, June 24 @ 8:30pm (buy tickets)
Written off as a high-concept boondoggle, OPERATION CONDOR might just be the best $20 million ever spent. Once again monopolizing all the hats (director, producer, choreographer, star) Jackie Chan pulls out all the stops to make a movie that is simultaneously a turn-on-a-dime comedy, a massive action spectacular, a globe-trotting adventure epic, and a karaoke sing-a-long about Nazi gold. $1 billion of it, to be exact, and if you don’t think you’re going to see one billion dollars worth of gold bars onscreen you must have forgotten that Jackie Chan always delivers. He says $1 billion in gold, he’ll show you $1 billion in gold. He says underground Nazi base, he’ll build you an underground Nazi base. He promises the Sahara Desert, he films in the Sahara Desert. That’s why he’s Jackie Chan.
This slick sequel to Armour of God hits all the key tropes of the Armour of God films: a Remy Julienne car chase (a metal-crunching pinball game using cars and motorcycles as bumpers), a hiding-in-the-bathroom scene, a karaoke sequence and a final fight in a secret lair. On every level this movie is bigger and slicker than AOG 1, and those who’ve missed it have missed one of Chan’s best modern-day action films.
This time around globetrotting adventurer and itinerant archeologist, Asian Hawk, is on the trail of Nazi gold buried in the Sahara Desert, and finishing the movie was as big an adventure as the movie itself. Co-directed by Frankie Chan and Johnnie To, it’s Jackie who has his fingerprints all over this one. It took almost a year to make this movie and its budget slowly grew from HK$40 million to HK$115 million (still a pittance by Hollywood standards). Filming in Spain was the original plan, but when Spain turned out to be an expensive fiasco they moved to Morocco where the production manager was promptly thrown in jail for for passing counterfeit bills (prop money printed with the Golden Harvest logo). The company moved on to the Saharan location, which went two months over schedule due to an illness that decimated the crew. Dailies were shipped to Madrid, so no one could see any footage until after the shoot was over. Finally fed-up, Chan scooped up ten tons of sand and returned to Hong Kong to shoot the rest of the movie on a soundstage.
Complicated? Sure. But this easy-breezy movie doesn’t show the strain. Jackie bounces manic ideas and routines off his three female co-stars (Dodo Cheng, Eva Cobo Garcia, and Shoko Ikeda) like pinballs, and the entire movie is constructed like one long, gag sequence — every scene, every character, building momentum off what has come before until the whole thing’s going downhill so fast that you can’t do anything but hold on and laugh. It’s a great big glorious behemoth of a movie. The kind they just don’t make anymore.