Video Article

Kicking and Screening

''Wheels on Meals,'' ''Armour of God,'' ''Police Story,'' and more are graded with an eye for action

We grade some of Jackie Chan's best movies

With Supercop collaring the box office and Rumble in the Bronx shaking up the video chart, Jackie Chan has seemingly overnight become one of America's biggest action stars. But the Hong Kong daredevil's often comic adventures have been a favorite of Asian audiences and a faithful U.S. cult following for years. To get you up to speed on Chan's frenetic films, here are 10 of his wildest, rated on a scale of one to four kicks.

The Big Brawl (1980) An early, unsuccessful attempt to transform Chan into a Hollywood hero. Although there are some typical Chan laughs and thrills, the action seems almost sluggish compared with that of his Hong Kong movies. Showstopper: Chan bounces and fights his way out of a movie-theater ambush. [Two kicks]

Dragon Lord (1982) Chan plays a young kung fu scamp who defends his village against greedy thugs. Be patient with the forced comedy interludes, because the action sequences are worth the wait. Showstopper: Chan does a back flip off a barn loft. [Two kicks]

Project A (1983) In this exuberant adventure, Chan plays a coast guard officer battling China Sea pirates. Showstopper: Chan out-Lloyds Harold Lloyd as he hangs from a clock tower, then falls five stories. [Three and one-half kicks]

Wheels on Meals (1984) With Chan and acrobat Yuen Biao as knucklehead food vendors who tangle with kidnappers, this one plays like a kung fu Dumb and Dumber. Showstopper: Chan's toe-to-toe fight with real-life martial-arts champ Benny ''The Jet'' Urquidez — a whirlwind of strikes, parries, and takedowns. [Three kicks]

Police Story (1985) Chan does his version of the loner cop, performing stunts with a reckless abandon that's startling even for him. Showstopper: Dope-gang thugs sail through the windshield of a bus. [Three kicks]

Armour of God (1986) Chan plays the Asian Hawk, a Chinese Indiana Jones, who takes on a cult of satanic monks in order to capture an ancient religious relic. Showstopper: In a bout with four chopsocky amazons, he leaps and spins away from lethal stiletto heels.[Three kicks]

Project A II (1987) Chan's coast guard hero returns in a strong sequel with even more daring stunt work. Showstopper: He races down the side of a collapsing ceremonial facade. [Three and one-half kicks]

Dragons Forever (1988) This rollicking combination of slapstick fighting, romantic comedy, and martial-arts showmanship is one of many films teaming Chan with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, a kung fu Fatty Arbuckle. Showstopper: A fight on a catwalk and scaffolding. [Three and one-half kicks]

Twin Dragons (1992) Chan plays twins, one a symphony conductor, the other a goofy but gifted street fighter. Showstopper: Chan vaults through car windows during the climactic brawl in a crash-test garage. [Two and one-half kicks]

Drunken Master II (1994) Chan at his best, with more plot and colorful characters, complemented by his most elaborately choreographed action scenes. Showstopper: The final bravura battle — a kung fu smorgasbord that includes pole fighting, fire breathing, and Chan wielding a folding hand fan as a weapon against a smuggler's chain. [Four kicks]

Originally posted Aug 16, 1996 Published in issue #340 Aug 16, 1996 Order article reprints