The Protector (1985)
During the course of the eighties Jackie Chan made several attempts to break into the US film market and show case his unique talent to American audiences. However, all of these movies failed both critically and at the box office. The US producers had a poor grasp of how best utilise his abilities and market him appropriately. Chan’s work up unto this point had been mainly comedy action movies, with liberal amounts of slapstick and Eastern humour. US film makers simply wanted to shoehorn his prodigious stunt and martial arts abilities into the standard US action movie formula of the time. It was a classic example of trying to mix oil with water and to this day, none of Jackie Chan's US films from this period can hold a candle to his Hong Kong based output. However, The Protector has an interesting production history and although far from a great film, had a impact upon Chan’s career.
The Protector is a prime example of not getting Jackie Chan. It contains many elements that you do not usually see in his films, such as excessive violence, nudity and profanity. The film's director, James Glikenhaus (The Exterminator, The Soldier) had thrashed out a water tight contract that gave him strict creative control. Possibly his aim was to create an Eastern Clint Eastwood? But this sort of street cop action flick would have better suited Chuck Norris or another established star. Chan seems to be very uncomfortable in the role and it certainly does not reflect his established style. The set pieces and stunt work are adequate by US standards but failed to achieve the levels of his back catalogue. Apparently, Glickenhaus would be satisfied after as little as eight takes, which was heresy by Jackie Chan's standard. The dialogue is especially clumsy and makes no concessions to the fact that Mr Chan's English was poor at the time. Despite robust support from character actor Danny Aiello, the entire proceedings are somewhat stilted.
Subsequently, Jackie Chan refused to release the finished film in the far east in its original version and shot new scenes and re-edited the movie. After reducing the violence and all of the profanity and nudity, a new subplot was added with extra characters. New action sequences were also filmed and they were inserted to compliment the original. However, because of this bad experience, Chan eventually went on to make Police Story which is a seminal film and one of his finest works. The Protector in its US format is therefore not recommended to anyone other than diehard fans. There is the added irony of Jackie Chan singing the excruciating end title song, which again belies the fact that the man has had considerable success as a singer in Hong Kong. For the more curious see if you can track down the expanded Hong Kong version which Chan re-crafted from this mess. It is far from his best material but is a very interesting experience when viewed knowing its production history.