Mad Mission 3: Our Man From Bond Street
(a.k.a. Aces Go Places 3)

Director: Tsui Hark
Samuel Hui, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang

Once again, I think it's time to once again slam the Canadian film industry. There are so many ways that people do things in the Canadian film industry to make it a laughingstock all over the world. Let me explain some of them to you so you can be educated and that I can let off some steam that has been building since the last time I ranted about the Canadian film industry. First of all, as you probably know, there are several aspects of a nation's film that can determine success or failure, among them movie stars, directors, advertising, how well budgets are used, and the themes of the movies. Just look at what Canada has to offer in those fields to see why I am ashamed. Movie stars? In Canada, at least in English Canada, there isn't a star system. I think the only homegrown movie star we have is Paul Gross. ("Who?" you non-Canadians are saying. "Exactly," is what I answer.) Directors? If you look at our most famous directors like Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, they are currently choosing to shoot boring snoozefests that nobody in Canada or elsewhere wants to see. Advertising? It's terrible on two fronts. First of all, while it's known in the rest of the movie that you have to heavily advertise a movie in order for people to come, Canadian distributors seem clueless about this. And what advertising they do put out looks more often than not cheap, sloppy, and shoddy. (Click this link for some examples.) How well are budgets used in Canada? Not very well. Though there have been some improvements in recent years, more often than not a Canadian film looks like a cheapo production made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television network. Themes in Canadian films? While there's has also been an improvement in recent years, the number of real movies made by Canadian filmmakers is still depressingly dull. Pretentious and boring art dramas still make up the majority of the movies being made, no doubt due to the fact that the Canadian government, which provides funding, thinks that "culture" means only art instead of what most healthy cultures are mostly made of - popular culture.

Fortunately, I can do what most Canadians, as well as what many people all over the world do, when faced with a terrible domestic film industry - look for films made by people from another country. Of course, most of the real movies I watch happen to come from the United States - filmmakers and studios from that country certainly have a bigger understanding about what works in the movie industry. But I do make a point to mix in some movies from other countries on a regular basis. It makes for a healthy diet, as well as showing that some filmmaking foreigners also have that magic touch. One such place is Hong Kong. For some decades now, the film industry in Hong Kong has proven over and over again that they know the pulse of the public both on their home turf and in other countries. Let's look at those factors I brought up in the previous paragraph. Movie stars? Even if you don't watch that many Hong Kong movies, no doubt you've heard of stars like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat, and Michelle Yeoh. Directors? Hong Kong directors from John Woo to Ringo Lam more often than not strive or strived to make movies people want to see. Advertising? The distributors of Hong Kong movies make sure that the public has heard of their movies by doing the same things that Hollywood studios do, from slick-looking posters to having the stars of the movies appear on talk shows. How well are budgets used in Hong Kong movies? Very well. Though your typical Hong Kong movie has just a fraction of the budget of a Hollywood movie, filmmakers manage more often than not manage to squeeze every last penny out of every Hong Kong dollar. Even the works of a schlockmeister like Godfrey Ho look better than many Canadian films.

But the way above all others that Hong Kong films have managed to find great success all over the world is with the themes of their movies. If you look at the output of Hong Kong movies, you will find many popular themes. They have made hilarious goofball comedies. They have made action movies that kick extreme butt. They have made sexy softcore dramas. They have made horror Mad Mission 3: Our Man From Bond Streetmovies that are extremely disturbing and scary. And they have made movies that are so unbelievably crazy, movies with such insane tones that no major Hollywood studio would even consider making. If you have been reading this web site for a long time and have learned my tastes, no doubt you have concluded that those particular Hong Kong movies, the stark raving mad movies, have a special place in my heart. No, I haven't written that many reviews of them, but I have seen plenty during the times I watch movies during my free time. But I recently found a DVD copy of one such crazy Hong Kong movie that I knew I had to share with my readers. I had seen it years ago on VHS and remember being struck dumb by its craziness. That movie is, of course, Mad Mission 3: Our Man From Bond Street. As you've no doubt guessed, it is part of a series that has regular characters. (Note: I'll be using the names of the characters in the English dub, the only version of the movie I could easily get.) In the series, there is a man named Sam (Hui, The Swordsman), an expert cat burglar whose various robberies inevitably get the attention of his bald policeman friend Kodyjack (Maka, Knockabout) when extreme complications set in, which naturally doesn't please Kodyjack's significant other Nancy (Chang, The Red Violin), who is also a police officer and Kodyjack's superior. In this instalment, Sam is in Paris when he is approached by a British secret agent named James (Jean Mersant). James requests Sam's help in retrieving a stolen crown jewel, which is currently in possession by the police in Hong Kong. Sam agrees to retrieve the jewel, but doesn't know that James is only pretending to be a secret agent, and is just a crook who wants the jewel all to himself. When Sam eventually learns the truth, he knows he'll have to depend on his policeman friends to get him out of hot water once again.

Even if you have only dipped a toe into the sea of Hong Kong cinema, more likely than not you know that that cinema is much different than what is produced by Hollywood. For one thing, Hong Kong movies can be more explicit when it comes to sexual and violent material, like with Robotrix and The Untold Story. However, Hong Kong filmmakers are more apt to make their movies explicit in a factor other than sex or violence. As movies like Fantasy Mission Force and the ninja movies of Godfrey Ho have shown, that factor is pure insanity. And Mad Mission 3 definitely has that factor; the movie was just as crazy for me the second time around. Certainly a lot of the craziness is by design, but there were some bewildering moments that I think the filmmakers didn't intend - bewildering moments that aren't much fun. Doing research on the movie, I discovered that the movie runs 96 minutes in length in its native Hong Kong. The dubbed in English version that I watched ran twelve minutes less. Though that may not sound too drastic a cut, the end results suggest that a lot of explanation was cut out. Take the opening sequence, where Sam is in Paris in order to... well, I'm not sure what his original intentions were before the villains hire him to rob the crown jewel back in Hong Kong. Later in the movie, when the villains decide to rob a second jewel, Sam is still working for the villains, but it's unclear just why Sam is still hanging around them when the villains seem perfectly capable of robbing the second jewel all by themselves. Towards the end of the movie, there are a couple of the villain's henchwomen who suddenly show their true colors, though what they were secretly trying to do all this time doesn't make much sense when you think about the actions they took earlier in the movie.

Obviously, there's a good chance that some key explanations for these (and a few other) things got cut out during the movie's travel to the English-speaking market. Fortunately, despite these confusing touches, the core of Mad Mission 3 remains relatively easy to follow; more likely than not you've seen this basic plot in other movies before. But what really differentiates this telling of this well-worn story are the frequent crazy touches. Yes, there is a scene where Sam has to pull out all his skills to crack a high tech security system guarding a jewel, but I can't recall another movie where the robber had to beat the security system at tic tac toe. Yes, there's subsequently a scene where Sam is interrogated by the police who suspect he pulled off the robbery, but what makes it new is that the police use a lie detector that has a robotic arm that punches the person being interrogated when he lies. Later still there is an inevitable car chase sequence, but this one has the villains straight out of The Road Warrior with their dress and vehicles. And don't get me started on the robbers dressed as Santa Claus who escape en masse via jetpacks strapped on their backs. There are also some surprise guest appearances by some famous American TV and movie stars that I won't spoil by mentioning their names, except to say they seem to understand the often berserk nature of the movie and are clearly having fun. As for the top billed players, one can often sense the same feeling with them. Samuel Hui steals the show from his co-stars, partly because he has a lot more footage than they do, but also because he goes all out. His character may be a greedy and lusting figure, but he has a charming smile and gets away with so much bad behavior that you can't help but admire the guy. Karl Maka, on the other hand, makes his authority figure one with weaknesses like being henpecked by his wife and having an eye for the ladies. Naturally these weaknesses bring him a lot of grief, but he shows enough spirit that we laugh at him instead of feeling sorry or annoyed with the poor guy.

As for Sylvia Chang, her use in the movie can be considered quite a disappointment. Her first appearance isn't until more than forty percent of the movie has passed by, and what footage she does get isn't very substantial, nor does she get to do that much. Maybe her shabby treatment here in part explains why she eventually exited the series before its end. "Shabby" is also a word some viewers might use to describe a number of the movie's special effects. Let's just say that the movie term "wire work" is an apt term to describe all the moments when cables raising and lowering actors or props are very visible. And a few sequences involving two photographed images combined in the same frame look painfully bad. But truth be told, I didn't mind the seams sometimes showing in Mad Mission 3. One reason is that director Tsui Hark (Once Upon A Time In China) does manage to give the majority of the movie a slick look; the movie as a whole does look a lot better and more expensive than many other Hong Kong movies from this time. Also, he does manage to keep the movie moving pretty swiftly from start to end (though the aforementioned editing down to this version of the movie might have contributed to this.) And while there isn't a terrible amount of the kind of action that first comes to mind when thinking of Hong Kong action movies (kung fu, gunplay, etc.), he compensates by filling the movie with complete craziness from start to end that will more likely than not entertain you greatly. While I guess some people might not find the idea of a baby being held hostage with a gun against its head to be the height of hilarity, to that I can simply say you had to be there to find it as amusing as I did, and it's just one reason why this movie is extremely likely to be not like anything you have seen before. It's indeed a mad mission.

(Posted June 18, 2021)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD - English dub)
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See also: Fantasy Mission Force, For Your Height Only, Robotrix