A trucker drives his cargo through the streets of New York, but is stopped at the traffic lights by a gang who rig the mechanism, pull the doors off the back of his trailer and steal the computers from it, pausing only to knock out the driver. A pair of cops, Billy Wong (Jackie Chan) and Michael Alexander (Patrick James Clarke) happen to be in the area and see the scavenged hulk of the truck in the middle of the road, so draw their guns and stop to help. The driver is worried that they're two more gang members, but they reassure him, and on hearing that he's from Texas they understand why he stopped on an apparently deserted street in the city. It's been ten years since Wong came to America, and he thinks he's coping just fine, but fate will bring some hoodlums into his life that will change his views and steel his resolve for justice.
Jackie Chan and American films didn't really get along until the nineties and Rush Hour; nobody in the West went to see The Cannonball Run for him alone, and The Big Brawl was a big disappointment for him. Still the star wished to crack the American market, and The Protector was another try, but again left him unsatisfied, so much so that he took the film out of the hands of the director and re-edited it with new scenes to make his own Hong Kong version. That director, and scriptwriter for that matter, was James Glickenhaus who was best known for the vigilante wipes out the scum with a large gun and an industrial grinder flick The Exterminator, and indeed that remains his claim to fame today. Not the best choice for a Chan film on paper, but on celluloid - he wasn't the best choice either. Did we really want to hear Chan swearing his head off?
What The Protector is is a bog standard eighties action thriller of the kind that were churned out almost weekly at the time, or so it seemed. It doesn't stay in New York, however, it moves to Hong Kong about a third of the way through. All this after Wong has lost his partner to a bunch of crooks who gun him down in a botched robbery, and he killed them all, including one fleeing in a boat that Wong blew up. It's the old Dirty Harry ethos all over again, but instead of a Charles Bronson type, we have a notably out of sorts Jackie filling the role, and it's just no fun. In fact it's a real letdown to see him in his eighties heyday sinking to the depths of a ho-hum rogue cop actioner, even if he is teamed with Danny Aiello, a cop who accompanies him to Hong Kong to track down a kidnapped fashion designer. Chan doesn't suit mean and moody, and that's the character he lumbered with here, with only the odd stunt and the merest smattering of martial arts to add colour. The American version also features some of the most gratuitous nudity ever seen, and I don't mean Aiello taking his shirt off in the massage parlour. Music by Ken Thorne.
[The Hong Kong Legends Region 2 DVD has an audio commentary and trailers as extras.]