Oh. Look. You're back. I was hoping you would stay away this time. But no.
No, it looks like you're officially hooked on the power of JC. And by JC, I don't mean Jesus Christ or Jim Carrey or John Cleese or Jacques Cousteau or James Coburn or Johnny Cash or Jamal Crawford from the Clippers or Jamie Lee Curtis sans the Lee.
(Nor do I mean John Cusak, or Joan, but we all know they're secretly the same person anyway.)
In your heart, you know I'm referring to the one and only Jackie Chan, the subject of this blog series that you never asked for, which is called (guess what) The 7 Days of Jackie Chan.
Yes, that is a picture of the best JC ever placing his arm around an anthropomorphic condom. And, no, it doesn't have anything to do with the movie we're about to discuss. Is that okay with you? Would you be honest if it wasn't? You can tell me. I'm a pretty accommodating guy when I want to be. Really, I am.
Well, all right then. Until you're ready to open up to me, we're going to move on to the topic of Day 5's entry - a little action adventure movie called Armour of God (1986).
Kinda sounds like the name of some SNK coin-op game you'd stumble upon in a Circle K back in '91 doesn't it? That blank look in your eyes tells me you don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Just nod and smile.
As you may have already guessed, I’m a big fan of cheesy cult cinema. This doesn’t mean that I’m perpetually lined up for midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or that I’m slinging quotes from The Room left and right. No, quite the opposite.
I like to consider myself operating within the upper echelons of B-movie greatness, always on a quest for the next crazy, obscure hidden gem that the world forgot to notice.
In other words: I'm a celluloid fromage snob.
This is because of how I became a movie buff in the first place. Y’see, there used to be this thing in my hometown called a "Blockbuster". Sound familiar? You may have read about it in your world history class. It was kind of like Netflix except it required more physical labor. You had to actually get out of bed to indecisively search through a whole store full of movies on physical media like DVDs and VHS tapes. What’s that you say? It sounds more like a Redbox? What the hell is a Redbox? You kids…
Every week I would make trips to this place they called “Blockbuster”. I'd hunt through the huge library of movies, 84.7% of them being older than 1996, that haunted its creamy white shelves. This is how I discovered great directors like Dario Argento and fine films such as The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf and Bad Channels. A giant, continent-sized part of me misses being able to wander into a store and scanning through shelves of movies that the world didn't need. And it’s that same part of me that really, really enjoyed watching Armour of God.
This movie is exactly the kind I would have picked up from that old Blockbuster in small town Nevada. I can just picture its sun-faded cover, encased in a plastic protective clamshell covering, a grimy blue and gold sticker on its face proudly announcing a “5 Day Rental” status.
Yep. Armour of God's got the elements of midnight movie greatness - bad dubbing, horrible pacing, nonsensical stunt scenes, stiff "acting", and poor comedic timing.
In fact, that’s what makes this one feel like it’s going to turn into an awkward euro-horror outing at any moment, and its location shoots most certainly contribute a lot to that.
So, the plot. I wish I could tell you that it’s like Raiders of the Lost Ark, since it tries very hard to look like its ugly step-cousin in its first five minutes alone. But it’s not. No, Armour of God could never be anything other than what it truly is: a very silly Jackie Chan vehicle dressed up in Indiana Jones cosplay it pieced together from the clearance rack of a cheap Halloween store.
Which is exactly why it’s so appealing.
The story centers around a treasure hunter known as Asian Hawk, played by Chan. During one of his madcap adventures, he steals an ancient sword from an African tribe in a pretty awesome action sequence that apparently JC got seriously injured during. (Pssh. Like that’s never happened before.)
After he escapes, Hawk immediately auctions the unconvincing prop sword off to the highest bidder who turns out to be a woman named May Bannon, the token hot chick that’s turning out to be somewhat of a trope in Chan's movie catalog.
Meanwhile, a group of evil monks set out to kill Hawk and reclaim the the sword so they can finally have all pieces of the Armour of God forever! And take a look at them, will you.
Can you really take these dudes seriously? Well you better, because they kidnap Hawk’s ex-girlfriend Lorelei to get what they want.
Hawk is visited by Alan, his ex-best friend who is Lorelei’s current boo thang. Oh, hold up. Did I mention that these three used to be in a band together? Well, they were. And the band was called The Losers. Yes, The Losers. No, I’m not joking. This is me being serious. I know it can be mistaken for me being funny.
After Lorelei got with Alan, Hawk naturally ran away to become an word class daredevil, because he is, in fact, more of a Winner anyway. Alan asks Hawk for his help in rescuing Lorelei, and he begrudgingly accepts.
Hawk and Alan track down Count Bannon, May’s father, who had her buy the sword for his collection at the auction. He has two other pieces of the Armour of God and he’s not looking to sell them on craigslist anytime soon.
The Count strikes a deal with them: they can borrow the pieces of the armour so they can rescue their favorite lady friend, but only if they steal the remaining piece from the monks and also bring his daughter along with them.
And there you have the setup for a very discombobulated movie experience.
As you keep watching, you realize that this isn’t so much an action film as it is an ‘80s cartoon. The way the characters and the proceeding events are handled are reminiscent of an Inspector Gadget episode. AoG doesn’t take place in some gritty hyper-reality that most action films do; it's an the purer, simpler realm of Saturday morning escapism. Which, obviously, adds an irresistible layer of nostalgia.
This delivery is the key to Armour of God’s charm, and its biggest downfall. It’s a feel-good movie, almost inappropriately so, given the graphic nature of some of its scenes (specifically the relentless shootout in the beginning). The naive moments greatly outweigh the boom-pow-blam scenes, so you’re left wondering what the point is.
But let's focus on the good. There are a few legitimately top notch stunt sequences here (as usual), especially towards the end (of course). The scene in which Hawk faces off against a group of rock n'roll Amazon nuns (?) should not be missed. Oh yeah, and that one car chase scene is fun in a campy Roger Moore era James Bond kind of way.
Armour of God may not be realistic. It may not be original. It may also not be the most satisfying Jackie Chan film ever. (Or the most accessible.) It is, however, a fun, earnest road trip across Europe that dares you to have some make believe fun. And if you’re in the right frame of mind, you’ll enjoy playing along.
Tomorrow is Day 6 of the 7 Days of Jackie Chan, and...do you hear that? Shh. Listen. It's like...a rumbling sound. I think it's coming from the Bronx somewhere? Hmm...