Operation Condor (Hong Kong, 1991)

cu3upfvog1jq7dve0gmmgnvvbohDirected by: Jackie Chan. First, a note on the title: if you google “Operation Condor” you’ll learn that it was the name of a real-life military operation wherein the US supported right-wing dictatorships in South America to kill a lot of people in the name of anti-communism, and you’ll learn that this movie, billed in North America as Operation Condor, is actually a sequel, whose full title is Armour of God II: Operation Condor. So that’s an unfortunate coincidence. Speaking of spy movies, there’s also that great Robert Redford 70’s alt-spy flick, 3 Days of the Condor. What’s the deal with condors? Anyway, the name is not the only thing unfortunate about this movie, because it’s also pretty blatantly, heinously racist in its depiction of the Muslim world. I know it’s 1991 but holy cow, this might as well be 1961. And the gender stuff too, for that matter. Let’s just say, I’ve learned not to go to Jackie Chan if I want a nuanced, balanced, non-racist take on other cultures. (I’ve also learned that Hollywood doesn’t have a monopoly on racism against other cultures—but they are pretty darn good at it.) What I do go to Jackie for is a fast-paced, dumb, fun time at the movies, full of amazing action sequences, dangerous stunts (done for real by Jackie himself) and some great slapstick humour along the way. And in that sense, this movie is a really enjoyable movie. I have to say though, all of that other bad stuff I mentioned does leave a bit of a sour taste, especially when I got the same humour and great action from Drunken Master, without the bad parts. Just sayin, I hope Rush Hour is a bit more of the latter, and less of this movie. I had one other observation about this movie and how it ties into the action-adventure genre, how it’s very Indiana Jones in its conception and delivery—specifically, the idea of a hidden Nazi bunker and lost Nazi gold. Isn’t it astonishing how closely this movie, especially the end part, mirrors the Indiana Jones movies? But in this case, the Nazis aren’t the villains (actually!), they fill the role of the ancient civilization of mystery, with its elaborate, booby-trapped lair that will kill any unworthy soul who tries to open the “chamber of secrets”, its self-destruct of the hidden lair, and an emissary to stoically stay behind and get buried under the ashes of the self-destructing mysterious lair. What really kicked it into overdrive, though, is the part where they enter the code to the door, turn the key, etc, and the door to the big inner chamber opens. There’s a single shot with some special effects of some magical-looking blue light, crackling all around the door, to make it look otherworldly and/or superstitious or magical. This is all very interesting to me, as I’m casually accruing some observations on depictions of Nazis in cinema, and this is one for the books—mysterious, ancient Nazi magic, as if from a lost civilization instead of a concrete political movement only a few decades earlier—and especially, in this case, mystical Nazi magic based on the ancient magic of Judaeo-Christian mysticism from the Indiana Jones movies (directed, btw, by Steven Spielberg). So that’s pretty weird.

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