The Jaguar Project (1989)

Directed by: K. Chalong
Written by: George Lam
Producer: Tomas Tang
Starring: Alan English, Paul John, Nian Watts, Harry Myles & David Borg

Proving, just like Joseph Lai's IFD did, that you can't be flooding the market with the same ninja themed ideas all the time, Filmark's cut and paste formula started to go into mad territories like with Robo Vampire (featuring hopping vampires) but also general action plots and that's where we find The Jaguar Project. Sourcing Chalong Pakdivijit's fan favourite Cannibal Mercencary (1983, aka Employ For Die and at least one VHS release of the original under the title of The Mercenary proudly stated Platoon is a family picture in comparison) out of Thailand, Filmark not only cut said cannibal content quite heavily but they had make room for their Western acting talent pool and a treasure hunt plot. Worth catching in its original incarnation therefore, in Filmark's hands it will only come off at its best as a complement for the fanbase of Chalong's original.

Sending in our Thai lead (here named Wilson) to retrieve the daughter of Dr. Richards, along the way the peril of the jungle makes them battle through deadly traps and a drug lord with cannibalistic followers. Running alongside this plot is three Westerners who are after the valuable treasure referred to as the carved buddha.

Not only taking a cue form the cannibal trend out of Italy from the 70s and 80s, Cannibal Mercenary also had The Deer Hunter very much on its mind. Although some drama is cut from the original for Filmark's version, it never really attempts WELL to portray the psychological effects of witnessing the horrors of war. However being a fairly well mounted production and featuring lots of extensive gore and violence, The Jaguar Project carries on that trait while simplifying the story even more. At best, the basics are still enjoyable and Filmark attempting poorly to make the movies comes off as one is suitably goofy but the cut and paste technique in its depiction is 1989 also comes off as tired.

With sporadic footage with the three Filmark lead (including one hilariously dubbed ginger haired and bearded man) working with plot beats such as greed and eventually betrayal, they are supposedly in the same jungle as the cast from Cannibal Mercenary but there's your first, drastic give away as the environments don't match at all. A goofy energy that carries The Jaguar Project along ever so slightly.

Thanks to maintaining a lot of the blood from the original (except the cannibal sequence essentially) and running only 82 minutes, any limp Hong Kong produced footage is excused because Chalong Pakdivijit's original has been stripped to the basics in a positive way now. Notably violent and action-filled, it's worth catching the footage despite being wrapped in some pretty dumb editorial decisions but again, in an overall sense the fandom of Cannibal Mercenary comes from its own strengths without the intrusion of Filmark's footage. It's complete, overlong and melodramatic vs lean, still gory and only sporadically goofy in the classic scenes. I wouldn't want to exclude any.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson