Armour of God was the movie that nearly cost Jackie Chan his life. Leaping off a wall onto a treetop, he fell twenty feet and cracked his skull, sending a piece of bone shooting into his brain. To this day a plastic plug covers the hole in his head! Ever the trouper, after a swift hospital stay, Jackie bounced back and delivered this pulse-pounding, enduringly popular action-adventure.
Our boy Chan is Asian Hawk, a daredevil fortune-hunter. In pursuit of a sacred sword, he outfoxes a gaggle of spear-wielding tribesman with an exploding beer can, a helter-skelter slide downhill and a secret getaway plane. However, the sword is part of a five-piece set: the legendary Armour of God whose mystical powers have upheld world peace for centuries. Hoping to usher in an era of darkness, Grand Wizard (Ken Boyle) and his cult of mad monks plan to blackmail Chan into stealing the armour. Turns out, Jackie and Cantopop superstar Alan Tam (playing himself) were members of a campy Partridge Family-style pop group called The Losers (a joke on Tam’s real Seventies band, The Wynners. Fellow members Kenny Bee and Anthony Chan also appear). Their friendship soured when comely band-mate Laura (Rosamund Kwan) dumped the former for the latter. But when hooded cultists gatecrash a Paris fashion show and kidnap Laura at machine-gunpoint, the boys settle their differences and go into action.
Jackie and Alan persuade a wealthy European aristocrat (Bozidar Smiljanic) to lend them the Armour. His only condition is his beautiful daughter May (former Miss Spain Lola Forner) tags along, keeping an eye on daddy’s investment. Off they roar in a gadget-laden sports car for a cross-country adventure involving wild car-and-bike chases, blistering kung fu stunts, May’s sharp-shooting skills, a hypnotised kidnappee, a dynamite showdown atop a mountain lair and Jackie punching monks so hard they flip in mid-air.
Most people will tell you Armour of God is Jackie Chan’s take on Indiana Jones. While that’s partly true, it’s also his attempt to top the hugely popular Aces Go Places movies (1981-1989), renowned for their globetrotting locales, crazy gadgets, and splashy production values. Direction was actually begun by Aces helmer Eric Tsang, but after the accident Jackie took over. Obviously the film provides a fine showcase for his daredevil stuntwork, but also highlights his skill behind the camera and as an editor. Check out the fashion show massacre that cross-cuts between bullets spraying and Alan Tam in concert.
The film maintains its hectic pace right through to the finish, with funny gags and slapstick action including the hair-raising car stunts orchestrated by French auto-mayhem ace Remy Julienne. You’ve got to love those turbo-boosts or the moment Jackie’s sports car splits into a motorised mini-scooter, plus the hilariously blatant plugs for Mitsubishi. Hey, at least Jackie is always upfront about his product placement! Great scope photography soaks up some glamorous European cities and vast mountain wilds and the film doubles as a travelogue romance aimed at aspirational Hong Kong youth. It dovetails into an amusing bedroom farce with Jackie trying to dodge a hypnotised Laura and an angry May while Alan remains completely clueless. He and Alan behave like couple of kids at play and its weird how Jackie deliberately sabotages any chance of romance with May. He may steal a kiss when she’s disguised as prostitute, but also feeds her rotten food and makes an off-colour joke when things get intimate. Still, Jackie must have liked Lola Forner since this marks their second team-up, following the excellent Wheels on Meals (1984), and she essays another sexy, sassy female lead, handy with a rifle and happy to slap him or kiss him circumstances dictate.
Ah, but it’s action we’re after and amazing stuff it is too. Jackie invented his “one-man-against-the-world-fighting style” here and, if you’re only familiar with his Rush Hour (1998) films, seize this chance to see him in his jaw-dropping prime. He flips, kicks and tumbles, holds off armies with a flaming tree trunk and - in the amazing finale - battles a bunch of six-foot blaxploitation amazons in hotpants and high heels. Watch out for those stilettos! Even after that there’s more! After lecturing would-be world conquerors on the error of their ways (the mercenary Hawk always claims he’s in it for the money, but still winds up doing the right thing), Jackie keeps them at bay with a hundred dynamite sticks strapped to his chest. We go out with a bang and one last, crowd-pleasing leap onto a hot air balloon, before the rocking theme song and outtakes over the end credits. Don’t miss seeing Jackie carted off to intensive care.