For a few horrifying moments of “Operation Condor,” I was afraid there was going to be a plot.
An American embassy official in Spain was explaining to the Chinese operative “Condor” that a Nazi officer had buried tons of gold in the Sahara Desert just before leaving North Africa during World War II. The United Nations wanted Condor to retrieve the gold for the good of all countries.
Luckily, I was mistaken. A Jackie Chan movie needs a plot the way a beach umbrella needs sun block, and this one had no exposition after the opening scene. It cut immediately to the chase, and the next chase, and the next.
Within half an hour, our grinning hero was entangled with the Nazi’s granddaughter, a venal Arab hotelkeeper, various Allah-invoking thugs (cue the Arab anti-defamation forces), a Chinese spy, a Japanese hitchhiker with a pet scorpion named Ding-Ding and a mysterious fleet of men in black cars. Still to come: the paralyzed ex-soldier returning from Germany after half a century.
Or, to be more precise, 46 years. The movie came out in 1991 as “Armour of God 2: Operation Condor,” but it has never been released theatrically stateside. The title translates from the Chinese as “Flying Eagle Plan.” There’s no flying, no eagle or condor (other than Chan’s character) and certainly no plan, except, of course, to have the nimble star bounce like a shaggy-haired handball off walls, the roofs of autos and bad guys.
Chan directed and co-wrote the script as well. Though the movie’s not cut as coherently as it should be - the middle plods - flailing amateurishness is part of its charm. Chan gets a lot of mileage at the end out of a wind tunnel sequence, using the wind to slow down and speed up the action bizarrely, but a better director would have made it unforgettable.
The martial arts scenes do move at top speed, and the comedy registers more strongly than usual. As Chan takes and doles out beatings, you can see what the Three Stooges would have been like if they’d known karate.
xxxx “Operation Condor” Location: North Division Six, East Sprague and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by and starring Jackie Chan Running time: 1:30 Rating: PG-13
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