Wednesday, July 23, 1997

Operation Condor

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 1997 at 12:00 AM

You may have noticed protesters picketing outside screenings of Operation Condor. If you have been unlucky enough to have sat through this seven-year-old Jackie Chan reissue, you'd not hesitate to join them. The Arab-American protesters have every reason to speak up about the worse-than-Disney-caricature buffoons and savages Operation Condor purports them to be. But it is the celluloid consumer who values such apparent cinematic nuisances as motivation, pacing, character and, yes, action, in action flicks who should raise a stink about this stinker.

The movie begins promisingly enough. Charming Chan (as agent Jackie of some Vague Secret Intelligence Organization) is attacked by a lost tribe of aborigines while he's attempting to swipe their holy jewels (and inadvertently drinks their holier holy water). He escapes in a giant padded beach ball over a looks-like-thousands-of-feet drop into a rain forest. Roll opening credits and chock up the first of many not-so-subtle James Bond references.

Between the opening bookend and that of the completely absurd closing action sequence (we'll get to that), Chan sleepwalks through the threadbare plot. Apparently, at the end of WWII as Rommel was pulling the Nazis out of North Africa, one plucky general was the lucky recipient of a fortune in Nazi booty in the form of gold, gold and more gold. The stuff was squirreled away in an elaborate underground bunker and, as the war was lost and the troops housed in it committed mass suicide, lost to the sands of time. But thank goodness, Jackie is on the case, racing to beat the bad guys to the treasure. In tow with our hero are not the obligatory one Chan damsel in distress, but two (eventually Chan will add one other, Arabian, beauty to his burden). These flat-liner, proto-Spice Girl beauts will eventually contribute a cute little action pas de trois, wielding helmets against the baddies in the final conflict. But for the majority of Operation Condor, these ostensible "experts in their field" are bumbling eye candy. Think of them as Bond girls without all that meddling moxie.

After a painfully slow 40 minutes of uninspired exposition during which the dynamic trio encounters a pair of the aforementioned ahumorous religious zealot buffoons, crash and trash a desert babes-for-camels auction and stumble upon the hidden bunker, the real action should begin. But, alas, more unbridled mediocrity. An overly long, unfocused chase scene during which Chan and the gang open an extra small can of whup-ass on the lone survivor of the mass suicide and his crew of thugs leads eventually to the least fully realized anticlimactic ending since Eraser. In the alleged payoff scene, Chan and the girls are shot out of the bunker courtesy of a giant fan and wind tunnel as the fortress self-destructs.

The wheels on this reissue should've been pulled off long before the first overdub room was booked. Cultural correctness aside, whether you're an action movie fan or not, this is a film to stay away from in droves.

E-mail comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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