It's Rush Hour 2, circa 1985! Sort of. Jackie Chan's second attempt to break into the North American market after The Big Brawl comes in the form of buddy-cop crime flick The Protector. However, instead of possessing the brilliant chemistry and humor of great buddy-cop movies such as the actual Rush Hour films (the first two, anyway), we get a watered-down, average Hollywood crime thriller that disappoints on all fronts.
Jackie is Billy Wong, a Chinese-American cop in New York. It is mentioned that he is a traffic officer, but since this is Jackie Chan, he walks around like "super cop" anyway. His partner is... forget it. He is introduced briefly and (not a spoiler) killed right away in the opening action sequence. Billy guns them all down (super cop, remember?) and proceeds to chase the last surviving thug on foot and by speedboat before killing him in a gigantic explosion.
After mourning the death of his partner (read: barely), Billy is assigned with a new one (Dann Aiello) and both are sent to Hong Kong to investigate a drug-related kidnapping of an important American VIP by the Triads. Action ensues in a massage parlor (Rush Hour 2!), a warehouse (Police Story 2!), on more boats and even on top of a platform that is raised a hundred feet into the air, all by the time the film is over.
This all sounds like vintage, crazy Jackie Chan action right? Not quite. The amount of time that it takes for all this stuff to actually happen is mind-boggling. The action sequences take far too long to resolve themselves, resulting in a pace that is very un-Jackie Chan. Someone was dozing off in the editing room.
When the action does happen, the stunts seem watered down - at least when compared to films that Chan was already making at the time (e.g., Wheels on Meals). Fans of Jackie Chan will probably see this coming, because itís an American film with mainly American actors doing the stunts, and not the JC Stunt Team. Fill in the rest of the movie with gratuitous nudity and American humor and you have a film that is as strange as it is mildly entertaining.
There is some mild fun to be had. The film is shot with a grand "This is a Hollywood movie!"-type of style, and features beautiful locations and detailed action set pieces. Danny Aiello is kind of funny, some babes show up (an early Moon Lee appears in a glorified flower vase cameo), and it's kind of neat to see Chan treated as the main star in an Ď80s Hollywood film.
But because this is an early Jackie Chan film made when he was still in his physical prime, The Protector feels like a big disappointment. The characters are so thin that itís hard to care if anyone dies - including Chan himself, even though we know that can't happen. This could be the fault of director James Glickenhaus, who Chan butted heads with during production.
Jackie Chan later re-cut and re-shot parts of The Protector for its Hong Kong release. Then, to prove to the Hollywood system that his Hong Kong-style action shouldn't be watered down with lazy editing and American-style shtick, he made Police Story. The rest is history. (Danny Hoi-Wah Ho, 2012)