Plunged right into the heart of the ’80s, Amour of God takes Jackie Chan into the realm of a Satanic cult choosing to be fussy over some ancient religious relics. They’re so protective of these pieces, they manage to find four like-minded athletic women who can brawl in high heels, because apparently there are four of them out there. Who knew?
Armour of God nearly killed Jackie Chan when a seemingly simple leap across a chasm went sour. Nature decided to take out its frustrations, a tree branch snapping and the ensuing fall putting a hole in Chan’s head. On top of that, he’s partially deaf in one ear because of it.
Dedication being a go to word for Chan, not only he did he finish the film, he did so with a preposterous and mind-numbingly stupid leap off a cliff onto a hot air balloon. Some people don’t consider death, and those people become stuntmen who can only pray the cameras are rolling as they take leaps where fate decides the outcome.
Most of the painful flips, vicious kicks, and mountain leaping bring Armour of God to life in the third act, the front half choosing a more methodical narrative approach. Aside from a fruit-kart loaded car chase, Chan keeps to himself, planning out strategy to rescue his ex, do so in tandem with her current boyfriend filling in as a sidekick. Exposition dumps are plentiful, and comedy can sag, leaving the film without the energy of its eventual sequel.
There’s still a lot to like here, this more reserved style offering a break from the constant need to find reasons to punch people in the face. It gives the simplistic narrative room for development, and an overly graphic opening that doesn’t gel with the bone-crunching kick-happy action later unfortunately.
Armour of God still produces martial arts memories, including a flaming log that creates a number of near misses, a dinner room slugfest full of flip-happy stunt work, and yes, the four-on-one high heeled finale for the hand-to-hand stuff. It’s a masterwork of pristine editing, careful planning, and casting, because there are only a handful of people willing to take these bumps. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Saddled with three other Jackie Chan effort on a singular BD-50, Armour of God has some struggles to overcome… which it won’t. There’s no means around the compression problems, the thickly grained ’80s film stock dying out under this mismanaged AVC encode. You can’t blame a compressionist for a lousy business decision, but people are still paying money for this. And hey, Chan deserves better.
For the most part, this comes across as a film of the era, the color scheme deep and the black levels hearty. Manipulation feels minimal, a stray shot or two filtered out of existence before this one springs back to life. Armour can’t afford to lose much definition since it has so little to begin with, and while those black levels never lose sight of their goal, they take shadow detail out of contention. Entirely. The black robes of the monks are solid, hair becomes a singular body, and cave interiors are made up of splotchy blacks, not rocks.
Echo Bridge clearly used elements on hand too, print damage a constant bother. With a going price of $10 or so, these four films were mastered from whatever the prior owner handed over. Restoration never entered the equation. At the very least, the aspect ratio is correct.
Close-ups, at least the ones not under the mercy of the abhorrent black crush, may lack a modern crispness, but it’s not a complete loss of fine detail. Peeking through the mass of compression is a great looking stock, and with a little work, Armour of God could shine. This isn’t the release where that’s going to happen, although it’s a glimpse of what’s possible. As depressing as it can sound, this may be the best US release in HD that will ever see the light of day. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
Presented in DTS-HD 2.0, the dubbing is where most of the concerns lie. Not only does it come across as a rushed, sloppy translation, quality ebbs and flows with little logic behind it. Some lines come through spaced and flat, others are natural to a vintage dub. Echoes within castle walls disappear and reappear at will, because why should logic play a role for foreign audiences?
Otherwise, there’s a natural age to most of the elements, the score struggling to reach a true high, and explosions forcefully ear-piercing without the needed fidelity. Treble is pushed through as if the speaker(s) have been damaged in some way. Note there’s no positional work, the mix two channel mono. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Nothing bonus-oriented here. There’s no room left on the disc for even a trailer. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Extras]
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Armour of God aka Operation Condor 2
JP – AVC 23999 kbps 1080i/30fps, Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1 2168 kbps 16-bit, BD25, no eng subs (Uncut 98 min)
US – AVC 23994 kbps 1.78:1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 1928 kbps 24-bit, BD25 (Region free) (Cut 88:30 min)
So once again the U.S. gets the hacked-up cut.