Friday, 19 June 2015

Fantasy Mission Force [Mi ni te gong dui] (1983, Yen-Ping Chu)

This film was recommended to me, and as it's one of the few early Jackie Chan movies i'd never chanced to view - and it sounded completely batshit hatstand (and it is.  Oh, it is) - i took up the gauntlet, bit the bullet, bought the DVD and waded in fearlessly like some crazy Trojan.

Firstly, i would like to take issue with the poster pictured above, and its stipulation that this celluloid opus is 'for mature audiences'.  This is one of the most gloriously immature films i have ever had happen in front of me.
The alleged 'plot', or if we're more honest 'excuse for an hour and a half of madness', concerns the kidnapping of four generals by Japanese forces during -  i think - World War II.  It's hard to tell, as the costuming for the clothing and uniforms is as haphazard and splapdash as the rest of the movie.  Anyway, this military whatever-the-word-is-for-triumvirate-if-there's-four-of-them comprise an Englishman, a Frenchman, an American (called 'Abraham Lincoln!) and an 'African general' played by an obviously Asian actor.  The Scotsman comes along later (played again by a Chinese actor in a kilt and handlebar moustache in a weird alternate reality 'reverse yellowface') but sadly there is no stereotypical Irishman to complete the set.

Obviously these important men are worth saving, and so the notion is hit upon to assemble a crack commando squadron (though this B-Team are certainly all guilty of the crimes they have committed) to rescue the hostages before they are transferred from Luxembourg to Tokyo.  I assume there's a road that just leads between the two places directly.  The scene of the colonel going through slides of Roger Moore's James Bond ('on assignment'), Escape from New York's Snake Plissken (dead, apparently, which is a clever trick when your own film's set in 1997 and you've died before WWII.  Wibbly wobbly...) and Rocky Balboa ('this is a military mission, he's not suitable!).  It's like a weird League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets The Expendables.  In an alternate universe, this film definitely happened.
(Pictured above: whatever they were smoking when they made this.)

Anyhow, finally a demented Dirty Dozen are assembled, comprising Captain Don Wen (Jimmy Wang Yu of One Armed Swordsman fame), comedic top-hatted Old Sun (Yueh Sun), escapology expert Grease [sic] Lightning (Frankie Gao), and womanising playboy and con man Billy (David Tao).  Also along for the ride is Billy's spurned and vengeful girlfriend Lily (Brigitte Lin, later to costar with Jackie Chan in Police Story, as well as playing Asia the Invincible in The Legend of the Swordsman and starring in Wong Kar Wai's masterful Ashes of Time).  Lily is introduced to us in a scene lifted from Marion's introduction in Raiders of the Lost Ark, engaged in a drinking game in a seedy tavern that soon descends into kung fu fighting chaos.  Lily is my new favourite film character: a kick-ass no nonsense leather-clad sexy chick who kicks asses, wields big guns and takes names.
(My new imaginary wife.)

Oh, and tagging along with our motley crew are sneak thieves Sammy (Jackie Chan) and Emily (Ling Chang), who are scheming to get back the money confiscated from them by Billy when he was posing as a deerstalker-wearing policeman.  Look, just trust me on this, there's a sort of plot.  Anyway, all sorts of hi-octane high-kicking hi-jinks ensue, including an encounter with a tribe of cannibalistic warrior women (whereabouts on the road from Luxembourg to Tokyo this occurs is sadly unclear), and a wonderful sequence in a haunted house filled with ghosts and the traditional Chinese hopping vampires.
The climactic battle against a Nazi army played by Lord Humungus from Mad Max II (or The Road Warrior, if you must) cosplayers is only slightly more baffling than the preceding 75 minutes.  Veering like the film itself between comedic slapstick and pretty brutal violence, our heroic bunch of anti-heroes are culled off like the Blake's 7 crew at the finale, with only Sammy and Emily escaping death.  The ending, as they leave the rescued generals behind to drive off in a jeep containing the slain bodies of the slaughtered friends, is a strangely melancholic way to end a very schizophrenic movie that juggles emotional and genre tone like it was edited from 20 different films at random.  I've certainly seen nothing else like it, i can say quite honestly.


  1. Fantastic! I am so pleased you enjoyed it and now your write up has made me all the keener to replace my VHS copy with a DVD. Good to see you found a pic of Jackie with the chicken :D

  2. I was trying to enjoy that fight scene, with all of the brilliant tumbling and flips and whatnot, but i kept becoming distracted by hoping that the chicken was OK. I assume it was a stunt chicken.

  3. I'm sure that after the film it lived a long and happy life, eating the best corn in Hollywood.

    I asked my dad what you call a triumvirate if it contains four people, and he said, "A squabble."

  4. I just can't figure one out for four. Whereas for five, 'quintumvirate' sounds quite good and almost like a real word. 'Quad' just doesn't seem to fit anything.

    I hope the chicken enjoyed his Hollywood retirement, hanging out with Foghorn Leghorn in Beverly Hills.