Operation Condor’s adventurous mania place it among Jackie Chan’s best action films, an often riotously funny, kooky Indiana Jones-esque story about Nazi gold. The variety in locations, fights, and chaos met Chan’s absolute filmmaking prime, with Chan in total creative control.
Much is made of the finale, an infinitely creative wind tunnel brawl that appears convincingly out of control on screen, finding every possible gag in that scenario. That’s easy to appreciate. It’s harder though to balance Chan’s fighting antics with a continually spiraling and dysfunctional group relationship with the three women joining him on this journey. Innocent sexualization is used for both brawls and running gags, making the women equally entertaining against Chan’s screen prowess.
Confusingly labeled when imported to the US, Operation Condor is the sequel to Armour of God as opposed to the swapped American naming. As the second go as Jackie/Condor/Asian Hawk, the story only loosely links to the first, although the general framing is similar. Importantly, while Chan borrows from western cinema in trying to capture Hong Kong’s Indiana Jones market, there’s more Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile in Operation Condor. The flirtatious tone and general disdain shown by these characters toward one another works in the script’s favor.
Better still is the action, because rather than focus on a few key fights, Operation Condor toys with the audience. The potential for rousing, lengthy choreography is there, but often it’s stalled to elicit laughs, and never does this feel overlong. Anticipation builds, and the when the action does commence, it’s a grander release from the organic tension.
At his physical maximum and fully locked into his directorial style, Chan elevates his form with impeccable speed, faultless editing, and precision kicks. Plus, there’s a grand car chase, stuffed with cliches like fruit carts, but celebrating that quality by taking things to a near-impossible peak. Chan’s closest call happens inches from colliding with a leaping car, Chan swinging himself over a girder to escape the near collision. It’s illogical to even attempt the stunt, let alone willingly design it. Of course, he was fine. The injury on-set happened elsewhere, eerily similar to the one that caused a fractured skull in Armour of God. Where that was a tree branch snapping, Operation Condor saw a chain break, sending Chan hard to the ground, fracturing his ribs. Maybe that car stunt wasn’t that tense for someone with a cinematic death wish.
The best Operation Condor has looked at home to date, Shout’s presentation is a gorgeous one. Precise grain replication is at the heart of Operation Condor’s success on Blu-ray. This lets the natural sharpness shine, and the film stock’s texture to thrive. Definition succeeds consistently, whether wide shots of jungle scenery or other material.
Splendid color is both rich and natural, from the organic flesh tones to bold primaries on flags, clothing, or landscapes. There’s no damage on the print, so this all remains stable, sans fading or splotchiness.
Crisp, bright contrast allows the whites to pop. From something as simple as a shirt collar to sun-soaked deserts, the intensity doesn’t waver. Strong black levels, unusual for Hong Kong imports broadly speaking, can surprise in their density and richness. Pure black is common.
Cantonese mono and stereo join an English dub. The difference between the Cantonese tracks is fairly minimal aside from some basic separation. In fidelity terms, they function similarly, the dry score and limited range typical and expected. Dialog retains a general clarity, some age detectable, if still passable in quality.
Shout includes the extended cut, which includes a commentary with James Mudge. An interview with composer Stephen Endelman, lasting near 14-minutes. Trailers and stills follow.
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Armour of God 2: Operation Condor
Varied, funny, and with Jackie Chan in his absolute prime, Operation Condor rates among the action star’s best.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: