The sequel to one of Jackie Chan's biggest successes in his native Hong Kong, Project A II opens with a handy recap of the original's highlights - including a Harold Lloyd-inspired clockface stunt - before establishing that police cadet hero Dragon Ma has been put in charge of a district previously overseen by a detective deep in the pockets of the local crimebosses. Once installed, Dragon Ma and his gang of four just men have a tough time holding the fort against various clans: corrupt colleagues, who simply want to return to their gambling; Mob bosses, who want their turf back; a group of pirates who've escaped from the first movie and blame Ma for their captain's demise; bowler-hatted envoys of the dowager empress; and revolutionaries attempting to liberate China from Manchurian rule. It's probably tattier than you'd like (or exactly as tatty as you'd want): a series of loosely strung together setpieces in which staggering numbers of extras try to avoid one another by way of preludes to mass brawls (Maggie Cheung ends up with roughly 27 men representing different factions ghosting around her apartment at one point). Clearly, one of the requirements for the sequel wasn't a manageable number of characters. Still, those setpieces - which include Chan trying to escape from an industrial-sized mortar and pestle, and a fistfight in a rotating cage of feathers - are several times more imaginative than those in the star's subsequent American work. The highlight is a Defiant Ones-style chase/fight sequence in which Ma sends the pirates packing while shackled to the man he replaced, but even the more conventional episodes of chopsocky offer some astonishingly deft fleet-of-hand: Chan grabbing one opponent's feet and relieving him of his slippers, or managing to incapacitate another foe simply by throwing his hat back into his face.
Project A II is available on DVD through Hong Kong Legends, and on Blu-Ray (as part of a boxset with the original feature) through Eureka Entertainment.