Does a man like Jackie Chan really need an introduction? He's no doubt one of the most famous Chinese actors working in cinema today and one of the select few that managed to build up a successful international career. But Chan's career spans more than just acting. When he's not in front of the camera he's busy being a stunt coordinator, writer, singer ... and director.
When I started getting interested in martial arts cinema I deliberately avoided Chan's films because of his Hollywood image. But when the work of other directors started to dry up, moving on to Chan's oeuvre was a natural evolution for me. It turned out that Chan wasn't much of a director in the traditional sense of the word. I don't think he was ever truly interested in making his own films, instead he simply seemed to want more control over his stunts, his co-stars and the pacing of his action work. And what better way to do that than to direct your own films.
I can't really comment on his earliest features as I have been primarily focusing on his more popular work, but from what I've seen most (if not all) of Chan's films follow a pretty fixed pattern. They are all a mixture of comedy and action, featuring elaborate stunt and fight sequences where Chan is allowed to demonstrate his signature style of fighting and acrobatics. It's a golden concept, especially when people like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao are helping out, but his films don't really amount to much beyond that. The only exception to the rule so far seems to be Xinhai Geming, though I haven't caught up with that one yet.
Chan's films are neither very good or very bad. Some of them are better than others, but apart from minor variations you pretty much know what to expect from the get-go. They seem to follow the ups and downs of the HK industry quite closely, then again it's hard to fault Chan for choosing to direct his own films considering he really did produce the best stunt sequences in his self-directed films. The Police Story series in particular (Ging Chat Goo Si and Ging Chaat Goo Si Juk Jaap) contains some of Chan's most impressive acrobatics, making them a perfect target should you wish to break into Chan's oeuvre.
If you're not into martial arts and/or you can't appreciate the HK style of comedy, Chan's films probably won't be for you, but if you like Jackie Chan (the actor) films in general you can't go far wrong with the films he directed.
Best film: 'A' Gai Waak (Project A) (3.5*)
Worst film: Wo Shi Shei (Who Am I?) (2.0*)
Average rating: 2.77 (out of 5)