Armour of God ★★★½

Armour of God is not going to please you if you are the average Westerner who hasn't seen a lot of 80's Hong Kong flicks. Besides some horrifically offensive racial/cultural cartooning at the beginning*, there's a lot of the very basic and juvenile "comedy" that HK/Chinese and other international audiences might have appreciated when the film was released, but that doesn't translate to a 2019 English-speaking audience, unless you are already steeped in the genre conventions and style of these films. Most of the reviews I've seen and read lambast the film for it's long middle section which contains little action and a lot of banter and bickering between the leads.

Even for a huge Chan fan such as myself, who has a place in my heart for wacky HK comedy, a couple of aspects of Armour of God have not aged well, besides the aforementioned racial caricatures of the opening scenes. The big issue is that Jackie plays a real asshole. He's mean and nasty to his friend, played by Alan Tam (who gets a lot of hate from reviewers for his broad mugging, but who I thought provided needed comic relief-- everyone in HK comedies does broad mugging, wtf), and if those bits are supposed to be funny, the translation isn't getting that across in every case.

Worse than Jackie's treatment of Alan is the fact that he's a misogynistic monster toward the female lead character, played by Lola Forner. When he's not calling her a whore, he's playing mean "pranks" on her like having her eat rotten bean curd or something.

I guess Jackie's character is supposed to be a take on the cocky antics of Indiana Jones, who didn't shy away from being obnoxious and dismissive towards the women in his films, but Harrison Ford always managed to convey that there was a soft spot and core of emotion underneath the arrogance and sarcasm. Jackie seems to just be playing a dick most of the time, but honestly his character is ill-defined and more often than not the audience needs to fill in the blanks a bit regarding his feelings and motivations.

All that out of the way, I still really enjoy Armour of God, especially for the nostalgia factor, as I saw this on the big screen back in college a few times. There was a little movie house in Cambridge, Mass, that circa 1990-1997 regularly played Hong Kong films, and I was lucky enough to see so many of the best of the 80s and 90s there, some multiple times. I remember being completely blown away at the stunts and even more so by the fantastic fights that combined hilarious improvisation with martial arts in a wild display of physical skills.

Now in 2019, the last 20 minutes or so of Armour of God is still awe inspiring, as we get everything from a food fight with the tableware being thrown around to brutal physical combat that looks like it really hurts. The memorable reveal of the four leather-clad fighting females at the end makes the finale stand out.

All in all, Armour of God is not a "good" movie by any standard, but it is one that I can ignore the faults of and still enjoy on a few levels.
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*What's up with that opening action set piece? It looks like it's taking place in Mexico, but the "tribesmen" are caricatures of something out of Zimbabwe or the Congo... except they're sacrificing a woman like some kind of Aztec ritual, so we're back to Mexico...it's just all fucked up and uncalled for. The grass sliding scene is a killer, though.