Neglected in its transition to the States, Project A 2 suffers an equally horrific dubbing hack job as the unfairly chopped up original. The sequel goes so far as to dub in Australian and British accents (huh?), replace sound effects with stock that were out of date in the ’50s, and cutting the music for something that would seem out of place on Inspector Gadget’s animated series. And honestly, that’s where it sounds like it came from.
It’s always a travesty, more so when there’s a great piece of Hong Kong cinema behind the attempts to Americanize the material. No, Project A 2 doesn’t carry the same regal casting, losing Sammo Hung and Biao Yuen. That leaves the entire project on the shoulders of Jackie Chan, taking his chance here to replicate another grand stunt master’s work, Buster Keaton, with a building falling on/over his head.
While A 2 doesn’t bite too hard with its brawls -despite some outstanding choreography and falls- it’s saving for a wide arching finale with more locations than this small suburb seems to offer. There’s a grain factory, siphoning wheel, creaky construction sites, lavish celebratory decorations, and general street chasing that combines into a wildly memorable kick fest. Oh, and hot peppers. Lots of hot peppers.
Project A 2 is situated with a winding, twisting narrative that, much like the first one, never really settles into a groove. Left over pirates, revolutionaries, rebels, people fighting the rebels, corrupt cops, corrupt kings, mob bosses, murderers, and somewhere in there sits Chan. With the mixing and matching, it provides opportunity for the film to soak it up, including a vintage-inspired house gag with opposing sides taking up residence at the same time. It’s gloriously chaotic, frantic, and eventually spins into a wild run/fight involving handcuffs, bringing all of the potential stunts that go along with it.
Maybe A 2 is a little too obsessed with its driving pace once the pieces are in place, feeling as if it’s putting storytelling second, although it’s not as if someone is here to watch Chan (dubbed or not) chat it up. You can almost feel the forcefulness and the urge to choreograph as a battle ensues inside a restaurant, Chan closing himself off for a one-on-one conflict just because. That said, with the entertainment soon to sprout, maybe the story can take a night off after all.
Logically, it was bound to happen. Project A 2 comes on a single disc with three other Jackie Chan masterpieces, so one of them had to end up with the lesser encoding, but this? Nothing can prepare you. In fact, as daring as it may sound, this might be the worst non-tampered with encode on the format. Period. No, it’s not Gulliver’s Travels ’39 bad (one can only hope nothing ever is), but that tragedy had every filter ever invented applied to it.
There’s not an ounce of clarity to be found in any frame of this film, totally negating the HD portion of Blu-ray’s capabilities. Compression is so atrocious, it gives the piece a quirky watercolor-like appearance. Compression is literally tearing objects from their solid state and rendering lines broken. Within the midst of heavy motion, artifacts swirl around the frame more aggressively than the kicks. Even when it’s still, there are entire shots of this movie that are nearly unidentifiable. Something is happening, some type of motion, or it could just be crawling dots that are supposed to be grain.
Small movements leave smearing trails, and truly fine detail never happens. Not once. Close-ups are searching for any type of sustainable texture that never comes, and domineering black levels take entire portions of the frame down with them. The original photography is occasionally given a mild haze, blooming out the contrast which only causes added trouble for this HD misery. Color, despite a hint of pleasing saturation, is negated by (what else?) the single digit bitrate, unable to separate shades from one another. Faces appear monochrome, as if they’re part of a Ted Turner colorization job back in the early ’90s.
The print seems to have been put through one of those auto-playing pianos as the constant stream of dirt specks make it seem like this would play a tune when inserted into one of those novelties. Materials have clearly been slapped around, and Echo Bridge never committed to any clean up. If they did… well, the results are not visible. Considering the aspect ratio is cropped to 1.85:1 (from 2.35:1) and then squeezed on the sides, maybe just a shred of care is asking too much.
Project A 2 didn’t need a 5.1 mix, more so if it would have conserved a little room for the video. Clearly, there’s nothing here worth the surround mix, the action situating itself right into the center where it stays. The surrounds are forced to clone the stereo channels as they push the comically awful replacement score, not merely accentuate it.
In fact, until the closing 10-minutes when some machine engines finally make an appearance in the rears, you’d be excused for not recognizing their existence. They’re not doing anything else, and the stereos are equally dead. With all of the brawling and fighting, nothing is presented with any sense of directionality. It’s one thing to properly mix an originally mono score to give it new life, and another to do, well, whatever this disc is trying to.
Dialogue is noticeably bland and lifeless, and all of those stock sound effects are as stale as you can probably imagine. Whatever the source is for those gunshots, it sounds like it’s been lying around for 40 years and then sampled from the interior of can. Pathetic.
At least Echo Bridge didn’t try to compress things further to include bonus features. There’s nothing here.