In a daring high-rise heist, master thief ‘King’ Kong (Cantonese pop star Sam Hui) steals a fortune in diamonds from the mob and frames another crook for the crime. But when Kong’s partner is murdered and the jewels go missing, he must team up with a bumbling American detective (the hilarious Karl Maka) and a tough Hong Kong policewoman (Sylvia Chang of Eat Drink Man Women and Twin Dragons) for an uneasy partnership filled with odd tattoos, narrow escapes and some of the wildest chase scenes ever filmed. This is where it all began – the original outrageous Mad Mission!
Known in Asia as Aces Go Places, the Mad Mission films became an international phenomenon by combining broad humor, explosive action and truly spectacular stunts for one of the most popular crime-comedy series in Hong Kong cinema history.
Mad Mission 6.0
eyelights: the ambitious stuntwork.
eyesores: the incoherent script.
I honestly don’t know what to make of ‘Mad Mission’.
Some sources suggest that this was meant to be a James Bond spoof, but I see no indication of this in the film. So is this a massively failed James Bond spoof (given that there are no real connections)? Or was its intention something different, something more akin to Jackie Chan’s ‘Police Story’, to which it bears more of a resemblance?
Similarly, some sources indicate that the film was originally known as ‘Aces Go Places’ (its original title was ‘Kuijia Paidang’, which means “Best Partners”), but that it was also known as ‘Diamondfinger’ in the United States. I’m reviewing it as ‘Mad Mission’ because it was packaged that way, with an English dub and a significantly reduced runtime.
All I know for sure is that the film was never meant to be taken seriously. Irrespective of its various names and its purported intention, what this is is an action comedy film that seems geared towards ten year olds – or, at the very least, for people with a limited attention span, people who don’t need to connect plot pieces together.
Unlike the vastly superior ‘Police Story’, the stunts and comedy in ‘Mad Mission’ are the principal qualities of the film – if “quality” is the correct term, that is. The story makes very little sense, being mostly a vehicle for the next stunt, and the characters behave incoherently, serving the broad humour more than their respective arcs.
That would be all fine and good if only the stuntwork was proficient, but it’s not. If anything, it’s ambitious, providing us with numerous crashes, tumbles, explosions, and acrobatics, but all within the confines of a limited imagination and skill from the massive stunt team (who all get mentioned in the opening credits!) as much as the director or the editor.
One just needs to see the car collisions to understand what I mean. One moment we see two cars heading towards each other, playing chicken (one of many scenes like this one), the next we see one of one car flip over the other, now stationary. Not only is it immobile, but the camera angle is such that we mostly see the stationary car. In slow-motion.
Now, I’ll grant anyone that a Hong Kong production is typically a low-budget production – and this was especially true in the early ’80s. This film was probably made on loose change. Except that Jackie Chan and John Woo both made films on the cheap and made them exciting and in inventive ways – so budget isn’t the only culprit in this case.
Then there’s the matter of the story, which pairs up Sam, a jewel thief, with a Hong Kong police woman and a Taishanese expatriate cop who has been called in from the U.S. to help find some stolen diamonds. As they try to find the loot, which was hidden by Sam’s murdered partner, they are chased by various elements of the underworld for a variety of reasons.
It’s clear that the editing has made the film less coherent, but it wasn’t likely very coherent to start off with. The moment I saw Sammy Kong (otherwise known as “King Kong”) trip over his gear and then lob a grenade across a whole courtyard into a window, I knew that I was going to be treated to some manic silliness; the picture wasn’t meant to make sense.
To top it all off, the translation likely affected the end result. For instance, the characters’ names alone are indicative of what was lost in translation: from Nancy Ho to Hot Tongue (sounds Asian, right?), from Albert Au to Kodyjack (because he’s bald… get it?), or even the snitch called Big Wang (because he’s diminutive, plus it sounds Asian. Funny, huh?).
We can see what the dubbers truly didn’t care if they compromised the original material. They had fun, but at what cost? What have they stripped from the original film by being so careless?
As for the acting? Fuggedaboutit! Even without the original vocals, one can see that this gang of wannabe stooges are hamming it up from start to finish. This is broad comedy, after all, and the actors are as subtle in their line delivery as they are in their physical comedy. Which is to say, not at all. Slapstick or line reading, there’s not a thespian in the house.
But I have to give the film a conciliatory 6.0 – even though, by the end, I was really looking forward to it wrapping up. It had some fun moments along the way and, if taken in smaller doses, it would be amusing to a certain degree. I just wish I had seen these films when I was a pre-teen, instead of now, because I would have more naturally overlooked its flaws and enjoyed the madness.
Date of viewing: April 30, 2013