Fantasy Mission Force (1982)

FantasyMissionForce+1983-187-bFantasy Mission Force [迷你特攻隊] (1982)
AKA The Dragon Attack!!, Dragon Attack, Mini Special Force, Mission Force, Shadowman 2

Starring Jimmy Wang Yu, Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Suen Yuet, Ko Ling-Fung, Pearl Cheung Ling, David Tao Da-Wei, Mary Wong Ma-Lee, Adam Cheng Siu-Chow, Hui Bat-Liu, Fong Ching

Directed by Chu Yen-Ping

Expectations: Not much, I remember this one being really weird, though.

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I think Fantasy Mission Force shorted out my brain. I’m sitting here, wondering what to type, but instead of ideas forming and flowing, it’s more of a blank stare into the abyss. If my brain on Fantasy Mission Force were a sound, it’d be the sound of a robot who just had a big fistful of wires pulled out of his thingamajig and he’s about 0.3 seconds away from exploding in a shower of sparks and shrapnel. I just — What the fuck? Fantasy Mission Force isn’t even that weird of a movie, it just defies all logic, and any attempts to watch it as a “real” movie will be met with a similar response to my own.

Don’t believe me? Consider the scene when fiery bluegrass banjo plays while Chinese soldiers wearing kilts parade in formation in fast motion. Or when our band of misfit mercenaries encounter a jungle tribe of wuxia-inspired flying female fighters flinging fabric to and fro. Or the Japanese villains waving road flares while riding in ’70s muscle cars with spray-painted swastikas on the doors. And don’t forget the night they spend in the haunted house inhabited by hopping vampires. Fantasy Mission Force is just one big collective WTF for 90 minutes; it’s closer to a fever dream than anything that could be called a film.

fantasymissionforce_2If you haven’t guessed already, narrative is not the goal here. Even describing the plot shreds will give you the wrong idea that there’s a semblance of coherence to the events. Here goes anyway! The opening scene shows a bunch of generals arguing about their information on the location of the Japanese. Turns out they were all wrong when the Japanese pop into camp and take them all as hostages! Of course, a rescue mission is the next order of business, but the Chinese army (or whoever these guys were) are at a loss as to who should head up their mission. Turns out James Bond is busy, Snake Plissken is dead, and Rocky Balboa isn’t trained for this kind of thing.

fantasymissionforce_1So they turn to “Captain of Devil,” Duan-hun (Jimmy Wang Yu), who is introduced to us driving a jeep and mowing down his enemies with a dash-mounted .50 cal machine gun. Then, probably just to show us how fierce and bad-fucking-ass he is, Duan-hun whips a dude around the neck and throws him completely over the jeep. Captain of Devil, indeed! So he’s definitely badass enough to rescue some generals. Even though this scene makes it seem like he could totally take on the entire country of Japan with only his whip and his jeep in his corner, he sets out on the mission of acquiring a crack team of awesome professional mercenaries to help him out.

fantasymissionforce_4Or so you would think. The team he assembles is a bit more ramshackle than you might imagine: an old beggar, an escape artist fresh broken out from prison, a con artist and the girl with a bazooka he conned earlier in the movie (played by Brigitte Lin!), and a couple of kilt-wearing soldiers. None of them seem especially ready for an all-out assault on a Japanese POW camp, but I guess with super badass Jimmy Wang Yu on their side nothing can stop them. Or maybe Wang Yu just selected these odd misfits to make himself seem even more badass to anyone they come into contact with. Y’know, like how good-looking people supposedly have uglier friends to make themselves seem more appealing?

fantasymissionforce_3Anyway, what’s all this about Jimmy Wang Yu… “I thought this was a Jackie Chan movie! That’s what the box promised!” Many a soul have uttered these words about Fantasy Mission Force, and they still ring true even today. Alas, Jackie is only a supporting character, and while he does fight Jimmy Wang Yu in the film’s final battle, he’s clearly been tacked onto a film that didn’t need him. What’s even more frustrating is that when he does show up, he merely does mildly entertaining versions of things you and everyone in 1982 Hong Kong have seen him do better.

The question “Why Jackie?” immediately comes to mind, and in this case there is something of an explanation. While attempting to break his contract with Lo Wei, Jackie found himself in a whole lot of trouble with the triads, presumably because Lo Wei had some connections. Jackie was in big need of some help, so he turned to someone who knew and held sway over both Lo Wei and the triads: Jimmy Wang Yu. Wang Yu brokered a deal that allowed Jackie to continue his career without Lo Wei, and in compensation for his efforts Jackie agreed to be in two films of Wang Yu’s. The first was Fantasy Mission Force, and the other is 1993’s Island of Fire, both directed by Chu Yen-Ping.

fantasymissionforce_5B-Movies that trade completely in weirdness walk a fine line between being horrendous and hilarious. Fantasy Mission Force is in the horrendous zone for me, but I did get a few laughs here and there. The production values are in some ways incredibly low (like the sound FX and mixing that are at times among the worst I’ve heard), but then there’s like 25 giant explosions so it’s hard to say the film has production values that are really all that low. I don’t know, man, I’m trying real hard to come up with “smart” things to say about this movie, but my brain seems to be reverting back to the Stone Age and all I feel capable of is primal grunts and smashing things with a rock.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is Lo Wei’s last ditch effort to earn some money off of whatever footage of Jackie he had left in his vaults: Fearless Hyena II! See ya then!

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