Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mad Mission 4: You Never Die Twice (1986)

 The cover of my VHS copy of Mad Mission 4

Mad Mission 4: You Never Die Twice (1986)
Director: Ringo Lam
Starring: Samuel Hui, Karl Maka, Sally Yeh

Format: VHS

Plot: Nancy Ho (Sylvia Chang) is kidnapped by villains who want to obtain a hi-tech prism, created by a Hong Kong professor, that can grant superhuman powers. In exchange for her return, Ho's husband Baldy (Maka), his buddy Sam (Hui) and the professor's daughter Sally (Yeh), joined by Baldy's son Baldy Jr, fly to New Zealand to deliver the hi-tech prism to the crooks. However, not allowing to let the crooks succeed, they must band together to prevent the prism from being used.

I haven't seen any of the prior three Mad Mission movies (which I understand were originally titled Aces Go Places). I picked up this VHS a couple of years ago and have been meaning to watch it, mainly because it's a Hong Kong action movie which is partly filmed in my home country, New Zealand.

This movie will mainly be of interest to fans of Jackie Chan-style martial arts action/comedy flicks, but has added appeal to New Zealanders like me. It's fun seeing some familiar sights (downtown Auckland, downtown Wellington, Auckland airport, Huntly Power Station etc) and how they were in 1986. Any Kiwi will easily pick up on the goofy geography used here - during a single, short car chase, our heroes leave Auckland Airport, drive over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and are suddenly in Wellington (which is at least an 8-hour drive from Auckland).

As I already mentioned, this looks and feels like one of Jackie Chan's Hong Kong movies, and leading man Hui even looks and fights like Chan (and has the same goofy facial expressions). His fighting isn't as intricate as Chan, but Hui still holds his own during the action scenes and is likeable enough.

Karl Maka is his bumbling sidekick Baldy (although the English language dubbing calls him Cody throughout), a role he plays completely for comedic value. Maka's goofy antics wear thin after a while - the best stuff happens towards the end when he's held captive and Hui and Yeh are allowed to operate without him.

The supporting cast also has some familiar faces, such as main baddie Ronald Lacey, the Nazi with the disfigured hand in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The script even plays homage to that particular role during the climax. Kiwis will also recognise prolific NZ actor Peter McCauley (LOST WORLD TV series) in the role as Lacey's head goon.

Movies like this fall or stand on their action set-pieces, and there are plenty of good ones (helicopter-speedboat chase, bazooka fired from helicopter, car jumping between high-rise buildings etc) showcased here. Director Ringo Lam would go on to helm a string of Chow Yun-Fat movies as well as a couple of late-90s JVCD flicks (Maximum Risk and The Replicant), and during this early effort he shows a good eye for fast-paced action. Sure, things get goofy Hong Kong-style, including a series of insane stunts involving a toddler falling off a skyscraper, but for the most part Lam keeps it from getting too groanworthy. The only major mis-step is a scene at an ice hockey game, which is played for pure comedy but isn't really funny.

In keeping with the Jackie Chan comparison, the end credits even feature bloopers and behind-the-scenes footage, something that Chan's movies are well-known for.

Mad Mission 4 is a lot of fun. Highly recommended for martial arts fans and those who enjoy their action mixed with wacky comedy.

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