Thursday, 8 January 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - Fantasy Mission Force

In order to extricate himself from a contract with mobbed up director Lo Wei, Jackie Chan turned to Jimmy Wang Yu, an action actor known for his public brawling, incessant womanising, and the One-Armed Swordsman series. Wang was able to settle the dispute through his own Triad contacts, putting an end to a situation in which Chan had taken to carrying around several pistols and a hand grenade for protection. In order to pay Wang back Chan agreed to co-star in a number of the actor's productions, including Fantasy Mission Force.

Jackie Chan essentially plays a special effect here, rolling into frame whenever the filmmakers think the audience's attention is starting to drift. You wonder why they bothered. Fantasy Mission Force may be tonally inconsistent and largely incomprehensible but it's never ever dull. The film has been cited as an early example of mo lei tau, a nonsensical comedic style that has become synonymous with Stephen Chow. Irrelevant and anachronistic elements are jumbled together with little narrative consideration, the emphasis being to deliver an uncomplicated, impromptu kind of trash entertainment.

Chu Yen-ping's film is set during an alternative version of World War II that accounts for haunted houses, a cannibalistic Amazonian tribe, and stock car racing Samurai with a hard on for swastikas. Brigitte Lin is the film's biggest plus, her character a violent, somersaulting version of Karen Allen's character from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Setting off to search for her duplicitous lover, Lin turns back to consider the shack they shared. After a nostalgic beat she whips out a rocket launcher and blows the building off the face of the earth. Wang floats in and out as a gruff Lieutenant tasked with rescuing General Abraham Lincoln from the Japanese. Jackie Chan pops up whenever someone needs kicking in the head.

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