If one can imagine a combination of the Marx Brothers' HORSE FEATHERS (1932) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), directed in a style that's half Sergio Leone/half Al Adamson, then one can begin to comprehend the messy hybrid action outing that is FANTASY MISSION FORCE. Gleefully ignoring any
semblance of intelligence or craft, this is pure neanderthal cinema, pure visceral entertainment at its basest--and it's a hoot.
In a fictionalized rendition of WWII, where four international allied generals are being held in Luxembourg by Japanese troops, Chinese Lieutenant Don Witt (Jimmy Wang Yu) is assigned to spearhead a rescue team. Naturally picking the sleaziest and most inept soldiers he can find, he assembles a
crew that promptly gets captured by hooded flying Amazons, then by mah jong-playing zombies, before stumbling into the Nazi camp where hockey mask-wearing warriors in leather jockstraps wipe them out. The only survivors are tag-along conman Sammy (Jackie Chan) and his gal-pal Emily (Chang Ling),
who discover that Witt is somehow responsible for the wholesale massacre. In the ensuing fight, Witt is blown up by Sammy.
A comedy by virtue of its not being anything else, FANTASY MISSION FORCE is choppy and unpolished, with sped-up Keystone Kops sequences abutting subgenius revisionism, like a man fleeing a bathroom past a wall full of hands (a la REPULSION), all holding out toilet paper. Jackie Chan versus a huge,
face-painted "Japanese" wrestler might sound like a sight worth seeing, but the execution is perfunctory, mundane, among the slightest of Chan's fights since becoming a brand name, and is clearly not choreographed by Chan himself. (A later fight with several of the Amazons shows considerably more
flair, suggesting greater involvement.) In a representative moment of (half-)wit, the film initially posits a cabal of officials seeking a courier for their mission, who consider using the talents of 007 (whom, it is revealed, is too busy), the "bald detective" (Karl Maka from Hong Kong's ACES GO
PLACES series), "Snake King" (aka Snake Plisskin from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK), and Captain Black Fox (now retired to raise a family). Black Fox, it should be explained, was the nominal protagonist of director Chu Yen Ping's earlier off-the-wall war movie, JACKIE CHAN'S CRIME FORCE (aka GOLDEN QUEENS
COMMANDO), played by Taiwanese actress (turned Hong Kong superstar) Brigitte Lin. Appropriately enough, when FANTASY MISSION FORCE's nominal star Jimmy Wang Yu recruits a hard-drinking, quick-shooting newcomer named Lily for his warrior squad, she too is played by Brigitte Lin.
Chu Yen Ping is an eccentric Taiwanese director with little use for the filmmaking niceties enjoyed by the rest of the world, such as logic or continuity. Like the cheesiest directors of decades past, his crudity is palpable, as is his overwhelming drive to entertain. Gleefully subverting
subgenres, he proudly dresses his dirty half-dozen in kilts, loincloths, and WWI spiked helmets, and crams a ROAD WARRIOR-inspired ending filled with 1970s muscle cars into his 1940s-era war story. Former kung fu superstar Jimmy Wang Yu is as notorious for his offscreen brawling as for his film
career. An unrepentant roustabout, he is reputed to be a high-ranking Triad (gangster) in Taiwan. When Jackie Chan severed his contract with Hong Kong mogul Lo Wei in order to sign with Golden Harvest, rumor has it that a furious Lo put out a contract on Chan's life; Wang Yu, star of Lo Wei's
film THE KILLER METEORS (featuring youngster Chan in a rare turn as villain) then stepped in to negotiate a monetary settlement amenable to all. Chan has subsequently lent box-office clout to two Jimmy Wang Yu features, the second being the oddball, all-star genre retread ISLAND OF FIRE--also
directed by Chu Yen Ping. (Violence.)
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