Written by Raymond Wong, Karl Maka
Directed by Eric Tsang, Hark Tsui, and Ringo Lam
Starring Sam Hui, Karl Maka, and Sylvia Chang
- English or Cantonese language track
- English subtitles
My Advice: Rent it if you're a fan of Jackie Chan
The Mad Mission franchise (known as Aces Go Places in Asia) has been, in many ways, incredibly influential on Asian cinema for over two decades now. With outrageous stunts to rival anything that Jackie Chan has done, a slapstick humor full of quick puns and clever allusion to Western films, and a great chemistry between leads Hui, Maka, and Chang, the series runs the gamut from Dirty Harry to James Bond, with several stops in between. The over-the-top action is really the centerpiece of the films, and these movies may be the only ones you ever see where the individual stuntpeople and coordinators get billing just behind the lead actors.
The first film is a parody of the Western heist genre based on the 1972 film Get Charlie Tully, in which King Kong (Hui), a con man fresh from prison, sees his partner killed, leaving no clues to the whereabouts of their ill-gotten loot...except a set of tattoos on the backsides of several women. Add to this the unwanted attention of both local law enforcement (Chang) and American authorities interested in the group that whacked his partner in the person of Kodyjack (Maka), and suddenly our hero has his hands full. Most of this, however, is an elaborate string of scenes designed to allow for maximum stunt wizardry, including motorcycles, cars, hanggliders, zip lines, and of course, guns.
The second movie borrows more from Dirty Harry, down to a look-alike cast in the role of a mafia assassin trying to give our heroes a hard time. Film Three, subtitled "Our Man From Bond Street" features an appearance from Peter Graves, and involves Hui being hired to steal some jewels on behalf of the Queen of England (of course, appearances can be deceiving, and Our Hero is a bit on the gullible side throughout the franchise). The last film in the set, known as You Only Die Twice in America, moves the setting to New Zealand, where King Kong and "Baldie" search for an enigmatic prism rumored to bestow tremendous powers to the owner.
But second to all these plots are the gags, both stunt and humor. The comedy is slapstick and riddled with some seriously groan-worthy puns (though I understand that the Cantonese version is even more chocked full of them). Over-acting and double-takes are the norm, rather than the exception, and the whole philosophy behind the films seems to be "why not do it bigger?" For a Hong Kong production, this is noteworthy, as much of the stuntwork is truly elaborate and couldn't have been cheap. There's plenty of opportunity for eye-popping tricks--some of them obviously staged and some integrated nicely into the flow of the film. Even the badly-shoehorned stunts are worth it, though, as they are the predominant reason to watch any of these movies.
Extras are non-existent, other than a dubbed vs. subtitle option. Twenty years' separation from a series that never took itself very seriously can explain that away nicely. It would have been nice to hear some of the other giants of the genre step up and share their thoughts (what does Jackie Chan think of the movies, for example), but it can't really be expected I guess. These are still definitely worth a rental to those that love some crazy stunts, or who can't help laughing at really bad puns and slapstick comedy.
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