Glickenhaus’ The Protector casts Chan in one of the Asian superstar’s three mid-’80s, ill-fated attempts at conquering American cinema, with the other two being The Big Brawl and The Cannonball Run. While this 1985 film is nowhere near the greatness of the product Chan churned out back home, it’s worth the while.
It’s also now available on Blu-ray, thanks to Shout! Factory’s double-feature pairing with 1993’s Crime Story.
When his partner his murdered, New York cop Billy Wong (Chan, duh) joins forces with fellow officer Danny Garoni (Danny Aiello, Do the Right Thing) and jumps ship to Hong Kong to foil the evil drug lord who had a hand in his chum’s demise.
Wong and Garoni go undercover in a bathhouse, providing the best set piece in a stunt-packed movie. The other action standouts include the opening boat getaway and a chase on the HK docks, where Chan leaps from ship to ship.
But the performer is forced to rely less on his considerable martial-arts skills and more on his good ol’ American gun, which may be a contributing factor to my interest waning in the second half. Give the extras a spin to hear Glickenhaus address his reasons for doing so; the film he wanted to make vs. what Chan fans expect is something right in line with Glickenhaus’ filmography (especially 1988’s grim, joyless Shakedown).
Still, The Protector is a trip to the circus compared to the disc’s accompanying Crime Story. Amid the many romps of Chan’s Hong Kong heyday, this one from director Kirk Wong (The Big Hit) sticks out — but not stands out — as a dead-serious police yarn.
As inspector Eddie Chan, our hero is once more the good cop, here fighting corruption the only way he knows how: with acrobatics. That Chan is allowed to do his thing is the saving grace of the dark film — slick in look, but dreary in disposition.
It’s not recommended to anyone but Chan’s die-hard fans, but to them, I’d instead suggest they watch his alternate cut of The Protector, which he edited for his own stomping grounds. Having heard about it for decades, I was thrilled to see it included as a bonus feature on Shout!’s disc; technically, that makes this release a triple feature. And the third time’s the charm. —Rod Lott
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