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NUMBER 5

Project A

Director: Jackie Chan

Starring: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao

Year: 1983

IMDB Rating 7.5/10

This entry is a massive cop out. Even though I’ve titled the article with the name of the 1983 film, it’s just an excuse for me to talk about one of my favourite performers, the daredevil legend that is Jackie Chan.

Chinese cinema is a different animal compared to the films from our side of the globe and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one particular Chinese actor managed to engage western audiences; his name was Bruce Lee. Very quickly, movie producers in both America and China were trying to emulate Bruce Lee’s success, especially after the man died in 1973. A young stunt man called Chan Kong-sang, who actually worked alongside Lee, decided he wasn’t going to try and be the next Bruce Lee, but rather become a martial artist film star that incorporated more comedy in his performance.

Now I won’t go into Jackie Chan’s life story (there is a book available for that), but once I eventually saw him in a film, I was eager to watch his earlier work. While Jackie Chan had made it big in the 1990s and early 2000s with American-made films like Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, his filmography from the 1980s always proved to be an entertaining watch. These films are always pure Jackie Chan and how he’s meant to be seen. The fight scenes are always bigger, the stunts are more daring, and the stories are usually more entertaining than the generic action films Hollywood tends to put him in.

Jackie Chan grew up in a performing arts school alongside other martial artists who he would occasionally work with throughout his career. Project A is one of the films that happens to feature Jackie Chan alongside two of his school buddies (above). The film is set in the 1800s in Old Hong Kong and tells the story of pirates and the law enforcers trying to suppress them. Inspired by the work of classic comedy actors such Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, the film features a stunt where Chan free falls 60 feet from a clock tower before landing on his head (he did three takes); funnily enough this isn’t the stunt that nearly killed him.

Project A represents my love for the action movie genre, which now relies heavily on guns, explosions and quick editing. Project A doesn’t feature much if any of those aspects; it’s pure entertaining action from start to finish. Project A also represents my love for Chan’s films; a genre in its own right. At the age of 61, Chan still performs his own stunts and choreographs fight scenes, although he has claimed that he’s going to be performing fewer stunts and being more careful in as his twilight years approach. So in a way Jackie Chan is my number five, but since a man can’t be a film, Project A takes this entry.

Watch the famous clock tower fall (three individual takes!):

Watch Jackie Chan wield a bike like a baseball bat:

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44 INCH CHEST

Director: Malcom Venville

Cast: Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson

Release: January 2010

Run Time: 95 Minutes

Let’s talk expectations. In 2000, Sexy Beast, a fundamental staple in hard-man gangster films, was released. The Brit-crime classic features a genuinely entertaining script with plenty of twists and turns, along with Ben Kingsley’s exceptional performance of sociopath Don Logan. Audiences and critics worldwide held writing collaboration Louis Mellis and David Scinto in high-regard, showering them with praise and positive reviews. However, the thrills of that success story gave people expectations that the next project from these writers would be just as brilliant. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

44 Inch Chest is very much an actor’s movie, better suited for the stage rather than the big screen. It tells the story of Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone), whose wife, Liz (Joanne Whalley), has admitted to having an affair with a young French waiter. As he brutally falls into an emotional breakdown, Diamond gathers his partners in crime to kidnap Liz’s new man from his trendy French bistro. From then on the film takes place in a desolate East End hellhole, where Diamond’s middle-aged mates encourage him to torture and kill the aforementioned waiter. It’s an exceptional premise, but it’s poorly executed, with enough expletives to make even Scorsese or Tarantino cringe. Those who were expecting a gangster film will be overly disappointed, as this is more a tale of a middle-aged man coping with the loss of his wife, rather than a blood-soaked action film. Its language definitely ticks all the boxes for that genre, but this film is all talk and no walk.

However, the film is bearable due to three excellent performances. It’s great to see a different side of Winstone; his hard-man persona takes a backseat as his character slowly sinks into manic depression. The film’s opening scene shows a teary-eyed Winstone on the floor of a destroyed living room, the song Without You playing in the background. As the film progresses, his character begins to lose touch with reality, and the third act walks down an surrealism path as Diamond faces his demons. Almost stealing the limelight is Ian McShane. His character, Meredith, a gay narcissist with a devilish wit and sinister demeanour, provides much of the films comical moments, especially when his dialogue bounces off John Hurt’s Old Man Peanut. Hurt brilliantly portrays this cantankerous grump, who encourages Diamond to murder the man who ruined his life.

Venville’s direction is interesting, albeit heavily influenced by the work of Stanley Kubrick. The choices made to the scenes that involve Diamond’s geezer mates representing aspects of his psyche, are inspired and professionally approached. Unfortunately it’s not enough to save the film from being a disappointment. The ending is anti-climatic, albeit thoughtful, and there are too many silent moments as Winstone looks blankly on.

44 Inch Chest is a film that contains extraordinary talent, which fails to shine through at the right moment. The plot hops along from C-word to F-word too frequently, and the callous gags are too few. Winstone, McShane and Hurt’s performances are compelling, but they are not enough to make this film worth watching. The beast remains the best.

4/10

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Is 44 Inch Chest worth a look? Find out this week.

Hey Folks,

It’s Week One of Now Loading, and I must say it has been very hard work to get the articles looking how I want them. However, its getting there, 20 original articles designed and published in under a week – it’s my biggest effort to date 🙂

This week, you lucky people can look forward to film reviews of 44 Inch Chest and Avatar, along with three huge videogame reviews of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Uncaged Edition. It’s all so exciting!

Be magnificent,

Alec-Ross

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