Director: James Glickenhaus, Jackie Chan
Stars: Jackie Chan, Danny Aiello, Moon Lee, Roy Chiao, Sally Yeh
After Jackie Chan's first attempt in breaking into the American market with The Big Brawl failed, he headed back to Hong Kong. Even though his career was in a slump (it was years since his last big hit Drunken Master) Chan thought he could do great things back in his hometown. And, after a series of flops like Fantasy Mission Force, he did. With a string of hits that included Project A and My Lucky Stars, Chan was back in the game. With his confidence back, Chan decided to give Hollywood another crack with this movie. Unfortunately, many of the problems that plagued The Big Brawl (most notably an inept/uncooperative director) popped up in this movie as well. As a result, what we have here is an interesting take on a Jackie Chan movie but one that ultimately fails to hold up with most of the rest of Chan's work.
The basic plot has Chan and partner Danny Aiello as New York City cops who are investigating the kidnapping of a wealthy man's daughter. The investigation eventually leads to Hong Kong and uncovers a conspiracy that involves a major heroin ring. It's here in the film's basics that it fails -- the movie tries to make Chan into a Dirty Harry-esque character and fails miserably at it. The filming of this movie occurred when Chan was at his apex of being the "clown prince" of kung fu movies; his films at this point had just as much (if not more) comedy in them, and trying to make Chan into a totally serious character doesn't work, especially when he's trying to act in English. Chan tried to make Glickenhaus change his role, but the director would have nothing of it. Jackie went so far as to try to get Gilckenhaus fired, but he had an ironclad contract to finish the film. After the film's dismal US release, Chan stepped in and shot some new footage for the Asian version of the movie and also cut out what he deemed was "gratuitous" swearing and nudity.
So which version is better? Well, neither really. It's actually kind of fun seeing Jackie swearing like a sailor and getting a "massage" in the US version, but (as you might expect) the HK version has better fight scenes and more Moon Lee footage (you can never have too much Moon in my book). Though this might just be a moot point; no matter which version you watch, The Protector is a stunningly average film. The only good thing that came out of this whole mess is that it gave Chan the inspiration to do Police Story, which would end up being one of his most successful and influential films.
Note: both the US and Hong Kong versions of the film are contained on the Blu-ray recently released by Shout! Factory
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