Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fantasy Mission Force

Director: Chu Yen Ping
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan, Bridgette Lin, Chang Ling, Adam Cheng

Yes, I am a fan of 'Fantasy Mission Force' and I'm not afraid to admit it. I wasn't always quite so enamored with it, though. I first rented this on vhs way back in 1987. With no point of reference whatsoever, I was unprepared for the unprecedented whackiness that I was about to experience and I immediately rejected what I was watching. It wasn't until years later when I familiarized myself with the cockeyed visions of director Chu Yen Ping that I revisited this film. Seeing it again through more educated orbs, I was able to appreciate the extreme fun that this and the director's other films brought

Near as I can tell, the film is set somewhere between the late 1930s to early 40s; Japan is attempting to take over the world and the united forces are... well, trying to stop them. When four top Chinese generals are taken hostage, a small ragtag group of mercenary soldiers are gathered as a commando squad under the leadership of Captain Don Wen (Wang Yu) and sent on a suicide rescue mission. Wen is gunned down, but the rest decide to continue the mission with the aid of ex-wrestler, Sammy (Jackie Chan) and his former manager, Emily (Chang Ling) who basically tail the group and intervene when necessary. However as things unwind, all is definately not as it seems...

The above plot synopsis does zero justice in revealing what an utterly bizarre experience 'Fantasy Mission Force' is. As with Chen's previous work (Island Warriors, Golden Queens Commando, Pink Force Commando), he presents material that seems to come out of someone's lucid dream. We have characters that don't seem to be acting in the same film, a bizarre musical number, ghosts and other such things that seem to be thrown in at the director's whim. And just when you think you have the extreme goofiness figured out, Chen pulls a major switcharoo by throwing in a dead serious and downbeat finale. That he makes the proceedings so entertaining is a tribute to his directorial clarity. As crazy as it all is, it is also quite clear that the man has a vision mapped out and sees it through to it's (il)logical conclusion.

Though top billed, Jackie Chan's role is really little more than a glorified cameo, amounting to about as much screen time as he had in Sammo Hung's 'Lucky Stars' features. Reportedly, he appeared in the film as a favor to Wang Yu who was instrumental in keeping the Triads away early in his career (he would do so again a decade later in Island of Fire). He and Chang Ling's characters' floating in and out of the film is no odder than anything else that goes on here. Wang Yu is typically tough in the role of the sqaud's leader. His final battle with Chan (at the risk of giving away the film's spoiler here), is gritty and intense, far more satisfying than their previous duel in 'Killer Meteors'. Bridgette Lin Ching Hsia is always a welcome addition, though she has far less to do here than in Chu's two '...Commando' films. Chang Ling is as always. spunky and endearing and does well as Chan's manager/partner.

'Fantasy Mission Force' may not be quite as endearing as 'Golden Queens Commando' or 'Pink Force Commando' and should not be seen as a Jackie Chan vehicle (lessen learned), But if viewed in the right frame of mind (and with prior knowledge of Chu Yen Ping being an essential tool), then you will find it's pleasures to be many and varied.

Rating: 6/10


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