Fantasy Mission Force

Director:Chu Yin Ping                               
Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan, Chan Ling

If it sounds ridiculous, that's only because it was.
                                       - Jackie Chan on Fantasy Mission Force

It is the middle of World War II, and things are looking grim for the Allies. In the far north of Canada, in an unusually warm area full of foliage, a platoon of Japanese soldiers have attacked an Allied base. The Japanese soldiers make quick work, blasting the crap out of the base, killing the allied soldiers, and capturing several Allied generals - including generals "Abraham Lincoln", "Robert Forster", and an African general who looks remarkably like an Asian in blackface. The Allied generals are then taken to Luxembourg, to be held there temporarily by Japanese Nazis before they are to be taken to Japan for questioning.

The news of this puts the rest of the Allied command in an uproar. Obviously, a rescue mission must be put forward to save these generals. But who will lead the rescue mission? The generals consider possible candidates via a slide show. They first consider James Bond, but he's away in South Africa. Escape From New York's Snake Plissken (here called "Snake King") would also be a serious candidate, but they mention he's been dead for three years. "The Bald Detective", Karl Maka's character from the Aces Go Places (a.k.a. Mad Mission) movie series, is a no-no, because he has defected to the enemy. They also consider Rocky Balboa for a second, but quickly realize he's a boxer, not a soldier. So they settle for Don Lin, a renegade lieutenant who is first seen driving a brand new Suzuki jeep into a battlefield, driving with one hand and casually machine-gunning a platoon of attacking soldiers with the other hand.

So you think you have an idea of how crazy Fantasy Mission Force is? Uh-uh. My friend, you haven't begun to comprehend just how wacko, illogical, insane, ludicrous, jaw-dropping, and other similar adjectives this movie is. Just when you think the movie is going to follow some kind of pattern - already illogical, but some kind of pattern - screeech! the movie takes a different bend, by fitting elements of another genre or time period into the jumble. It may not seem like it makes sense, but in its attempt to have absolutely no kind of logic, the movie quickly does become, in a twisted way, logical. We become prepared for whatever new demented angle the movie throws at us - in fact, we'd be surprised if several minutes went by and nothing bizarre happened.

For example, take the scene after the heroes are captured by Amazon warriors living on the battlefield, shown to the Amazon leader (a suave man wearing a tuxedo), and then imprisoned. The female member of the heroes quickly makes her escape - which is done to the music from John Carpenter's Halloween. Yes, Halloween. Somehow it seems appropriate for the scene. There's a lot of music in this movie that seems to be ripped off from other movies. There's a lot of spaghetti western-sounding music here, with a melancholy-sounding harmonica rendering of "Camptown Races" played during the more serious scenes (relatively speaking). One other piece of music I recognized was the Ennio Morricone-penned music from the Italian suspense thriller Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Listening to the music by itself, one would think that it could only be used for an opening credits setpiece to set the mood, or for a particularly tense scene. But in Fantasy Mission Force, this music is "borrowed" to score the scene where Jackie Chan's character gets into a slapstick kung-fu/wrestling tournament fight. Now, before seeing this movie, I would have never thought Morricone's score could be used for any fight scene. But somehow it works here.

Speaking of Jackie Chan, Fantasy Mission Force has been resurrected and repackaged as a Jackie Chan movie, no doubt because of Jackie Chan's subsequent rise in popularity in North America. Viewers, however, who are expecting a typical Jackie Chan movie, or at least Jackie Chan in a starring role, will be disappointed. That's mainly because Chan (here billed as "Jacky Chan") only has a supporting role that's barely more than a cameo - he wanders in and out through the entire movie. Chan only was in this movie because he owed Jimmy Wang Yu a favor. So this movie isn't "a Jackie Chan" movie in any sense. In his few scenes, Jackie does do some of his familiar light- hearted gymnastics and kung-fu, and they are entertaining in their own right, though this material isn't as big a scale as in his later movies like Police Force (a.k.a. Police Story) or Project A. He is also blessed with the last few lines of dialogue in the movie, which are so unintentionally funny, I won't spoil them here. Despite this, I am sure some people renting this movie were very angry, expecting one thing and getting something else.

However, for those knowing that this isn't a typical Jackie Chan movie, and familiar with the excesses Hong Kong cinema is sometimes guilty of, they are more likely to have a blast with this movie, like I did. Judging the acting of a movie like this is pretty much useless - everyone is dubbed, except for the musical (!) number near the beginning of the movie. ("Ha-ha-ha!" are the only lyrics I could understand of the number, and they are uttered several times in the number.) And judging the movie by the script is really redundant in a movie like this - you either "get it" or not. Tell me, do any of the following scene descriptions sound appealing to you?:

- A rip-off of the drinking scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the contestants not only have to drink, but shoot off an article of clothing from a tied-up woman after finishing their glass.

- A woman who decides to leave her home forever, but not before blowing it up with a bazooka in an especially tender moment.

- Speeded-up footage of a marching platoon of kilt-clad Asian soldiers, doing their speeded-up march to bagpipe music.

- One of the heroes is dressed up in medieval armor, and swings a morning star.

- A battle with a gang straight out of The Road Warrior, with extra warriors riding the tops of the cars like the worm riders from Dune.

Mix the above with a large dose of slapstick, some kung-fu, gymnastics, wirework, and some scenes of surprising violence (both in scale and intensity), and you get Fantasy Mission Force - an absolutely unique movie, even if some of its details are obviously derivative from other sources. Of course, this movie will not be to everyone's taste, and I certainly wouldn't use it as an introduction to Hong Kong cinema. But for those familiar with the genre, or open enough to a wide range of movies, their chances of enjoying Fantasy Mission Force are greatly increased. (Note: Some video distributors have used substandard prints for the video editions, so beware.)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
Check Amazon for Jackie Chan's autobiography

See also: Bridge Of Dragons, For Your Height Only, Didn't You Hear