Zigging backward in time a bit in my nearly-chronological survey of the Tsui Hark filmography, here’s another one I hadn’t ever seen before and didn’t even know was available on a Region 1 DVD from Anchor Bay. Mad Mission 3 is, as the title indicates, the third in a series, and it was one of Tsui’s attempts to prove that he could make popular, profitable films after a number of box office flops early in his career. It was the highest earning film in Hong Kong in 1984, but my impression of it before I saw it was that it was lowbrow trash tossed off for cash and industry cred.
Somehow it seemed fitting that the Anchor Bay DVD only offers an English dub, and also fitting that it’s a good dub! This is indeed a lowbrow popcorn action comedy, but I thought it was a lot of fun. I haven’t seen the first two films in the series, so I have no idea how this compares and thus how much Tsui brought to this particular endeavor and how much is just built into the franchise. It stars Sam Hui, who would later play the lead in Tsui’s Swordsman (1990), as a thief who gets boondoggled into stealing for Queen and country. His law enforcement partners in crime are played by Karl Maka and Sylvia Chang. (Chang would also star in Tsui’s superior Shanghai Blues made the same year, 1984.) The scope of the action is international, and Peter Graves, Jean Mersant, and Richard Kiel show up to give the cast a global feel as well.
Graves is more or less playing his character from Mission: Impossible, and Mersant plays an evil James Bond clone, which I guess explains the title. It’s very much a spoof on the Bond films, with lots of high tech gadgets and hugger-mugger espionage. The action never lets up, which means the dumb jokes never really have time to stink for long. This looks pretty low budget, although apparently it was higher budget than the first two films, and in any event Tsui does a pretty good job of making his cheap props work. Even for a Hong Kong film of the ’80s, however, they didn’t try very hard to hide the wires that enable flight in a couple of scenes.
Tsui’s sense of visual composition is as good as ever, and, yeah, the action never stops. It has just enough of that delirious Hong Kong imagery we all know and love (e.g. the fighting, gravity-defying Santas) to make it all a bit weird. Maybe looking at this one as a Tsui film is misleading, and I can see why most commentaries on Tsui barely pause to notice it. However, given the low reputation it has, I found it a good goofy mindless adventure.