Famous not only as a box-office smash, but also for containing a misfired stunt that smashed open Jackie Chan’s skull, Armour of God is a bare bones action-adventure yarn that displays oodles of JC’s superb athleticism and wily comic talents. This is a movie that barely makes sense, is often borderline politically incorrect, and is firmly rooted in childish entertainment — in short, it’s an energetic and accomplished plot-driven B-movie that aficionados of finer martial action or breakneck comedy may not enjoy as much as funnier, and more intriguing, ’80s Jackie high points like Project A.
As Jackie explains in one of the disc’s short, but insightful, interviews, it’s the kind of film where he thought he’d just throw some elements together just because he hadn’t tried them before: the famous final fisticuffs between him and the stilleto-wearing (wielding?) black women is a case in point. A detailed sequence where Jackie double-punches one of the women’s breasts, and lures another onto a plank bridge where her heels get stuck, the battle is put into an interestingly new context in the interview as JC suggests that a great proportion of the shots were performed with male doubles due to the unavailability of the women! (And this is indeed incredibly obvious when you study the scene.) He calls this “magic”, enthusing over the tricks of the trade available through the basic mechanism of film editing. The fact that JC is perfectly willing to reveal these little tricks signals his lack of interest in film realism — and what a good thing that is within a story as utterly unbelievable as Armour of God!
Perhaps the most overt instance of abstraction in many Jackie Chan films comes once the final credits roll. The outtakes here are special only for their revelation of the poorly executed stunt that led to Chan’s head caving in from impact with the ground. In the first few minutes of the film, Jackie leaps from a wall, onto a flaccid tree, the trunk of which bends from his momentum, enabling him to extend his lateral “leap” to another wall that would normally be too far away to jump onto in a single bound. As the outtakes show, when he tried to complete the jump earlier in the shoot the targeted branch in the tree wasn’t up to the task of bearing his weight (or did he miss the branch altogether?!) and he fell several metres, through the remainder of the tree, to the ground below.
In another candid interview on the disc Jackie’s manager talks about the aftermath of the failed stunt, revealing his concerns over the level of medical proficiency in Eastern Europe and how he was too scared to mention JC’s necessary operation to JC’s dad until after it was deemed a success! Though not particularly instructive in terms of “what really happened” here, these little memories make venturing into the bonus material a worthwhile affair.
An vibrant, amusing, but minor work, Armour of God is a rollicking affair that some fans will delight in returning to, but others will shuffle away in the pockets of their distant, if fond, thoughts about the silliness of ’80s mini-blockbusters. For the neophyte, it is an excellent (because relatively harmless) introduction to Jackie Chan. And just as an aside, fans of overt Indiana Jones riffs apparent in HK films may also want to check out how Michael Hui “interprets” such Sunday serialism in Teppanyaki.