Project A, Part II finds Jackie Chan at the height of his skills as both director and performer. Following a montage of the most memorable moments from Project A (1983), the sequel begins as the surviving pirates swear vengeance on kung fu coast guard officer Dragon Ma (Jackie Chan). Ma meanwhile has been assigned, along with his buddies, to take over the police station at Sai Wan district, run by the outwardly righteous but secretly corrupt Inspector Chun (David Lam Wai). Faced with an entire station full of lazy and crooked cops, Ma decides to lead by example. His face off against glowering gang boss Tiger Au (Chan Wai-Man) results in a trashed teahouse and a great many bruises for Ma and co, but through grit, determination and some help from the navy they’re able to clean up the crime-ridden district.
Things grow more complicated however, when Ma is called to provide security at a birthday party for the governor’s daughter (Regina Kent). He is instantly smitten with a pair of beautiful revolutionaries, Maggie (Maggie Cheung) and Carina (Carina Lau) who are here to assist rebel leader Miss Pai (Rosamund Kwan) steal a priceless necklace that will fund their fight for freedom. In the ensuing chaos, poor Ma winds up framed for the theft much to the smirking delight of Chun. As our hero goes on the run, the guilt-ridden girls offer their help while a pair of imperial agents arrive in Hong Kong hoping to nab the rebels. And then there are those pesky pirates to contend with…
When Jackie Chan chose to make this sequel instead of co-starring alongside his kung fu brothers Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in their equally excellent Eastern Condors (1987), it caused a brief rift between these childhood friends. Although they eventually patched up their differences, at that time Chan felt he had something to prove both to them and his public who had him typecast to an extent as a filmmaker capable of staging ingenious stunts but not much more. Hence, although Project A, Part II features more than its fair share of amazing action and stunts, it is more notable for Chan’s deft handling of its sprightly comic set-pieces and surprisingly impassioned social statements.
Chan and co-screenwriter Edward Tang concoct a more intricate plot this time round, one whose twists and turns please as much as the slapstick fu. The film attacks corruption, complacency, petty bureaucracy and rivalry, and is equal parts anti-imperialist and anti-communist, something that might have irked Hong Kong’s governing authorities both past and present were it not for the light-hearted tone. At one point Jackie even enters an honest-to-goodness political debate with the righteous revolutionaries, arguing that even fervent idealists sometimes lose sight of the common man and how it is a policeman’s duty to protect everyone regardless of their political affiliations. The martial arts influenced altruistic philosophy that Jackie inherited from Bruce Lee is also present as, spurred by Dragon’s example, the villainous pirates turn over a new leaf.
As director, Chan clearly relishes being able to play with such a lavish box of toys, making the most of some amazing sets with his fluid camerawork and ensuring Rosamund Kwan, Carina Lau and especially Maggie Cheung are more than just the prettiest dolls in their period costumes but plenty feisty and outspoken too. Among the beautifully conceived scenes are the ballroom dance sequence that evokes the golden age of Hollywood costume dramas as the camera waltzes along with party guests. And one of the most memorable, non-martial arts moments in Jackie’s work: the sequence where Maggie hides around nine different people about her house with almost everybody clueless as to what’s going on.
The fights race by at lightning speed and showcase Jackie in his prime. Never mind Rudy Ray Moore, here is the real human tornado. Things build to a bravura final fifteen minutes wherein Jackie and his co-stars slip, slide and leap from building to building. The clown prince of kung fu is half-drowned, trapped in a giant hamster wheel, and eats a mouthful of flaming hot chillies (for real!) all in the name of unforgettable entertainment. And that’s before his jaw-dropping tribute to Buster Keaton, as Jackie narrowly escapes a collapsing building. Outtakes over the end credits as always, but this time you can watch Jackie in the recording booth performing the theme song, dressed Miami Vice style - rolled up sleeves and all!