The Creators Of INFERNAL AFFAIRS Bring The Old School Thrills
I’ve been craving some of that classic old school Hong Kong action, and missing it quite a bit in Hong Kong’s most recent output. I recently gave Andy Lau’s Shock Wave a shot and found it lacking. Where can one go these days to find modern takes on that unique brand of Hong Kong bullet ballet and melodrama? My sense was that Felix Chong and Alan Mak, the writer and director, respectively, of Infernal Affairs could potentially do the trick upon reteaming for Extraordinary Mission. Adding a second director in Anthony Pun (director of photography on a whole heap of previous films), the filmmakers behind all time classic undercover story Infernal Affairs once again dipped into the undercover trough for a new go.
At first I found myself worried, noting that the delicious hook of Infernal Affairs (having a double agent on each side of the narrative) was nowhere to be found here. Instead we follow the notably handsome if curiously 90s-quaffed Lin Kai (Xuan Huang) into the deep darkness of an undercover narcotics sting. It follows all the typical cliches of that genre, and takes a long time to really invest the audience in what is going on. There are the secret meetings with his captain, getting to know the villain and his main heavies, and the slow chipping away of Lin Kai’s moral code. There are flashbacks and melodrama, but at first it simply feels like well-trodden territory.
But hoo boy, does the third act of Extraordinary Mission erupt in a game changing way. All the slow burn chess pieces of the first couple of acts explode in an all out war on the streets between a few conflicted cops and an army of “golden triangle” drug runners. In what is probably close to 30 minutes of pure intensity, Extraordinary Mission saves the best for last and sends its audience out with their pulses racing. Explosions, motorcycles, car chases, heroic bloodshed, it’s all there and then some.
Xuan Huang proves a capable and handsome lead here, and does a solid job anchoring the film. It’s not necessarily appropriately or effectively laid out in the course of the narrative exactly how or why he’s able to erupt into a super human by the end of the film, driving motorcycles off of rooftops and blowing up buildings in his wake, but since it’s all so grandiose by the end (and so effectively staged), I’ll take it. The seemingly slow character set up with the horribly scarred heroine kingpin and his mysterious daughter and the police chief with a past all take ages to begin to click. But by the end the characters matter just enough to us for the final shootout to have some much needed weight. And what is a Hong Kong bullet ballet, after all, without a little melodrama?
While Extraordinary Mission will never be hailed or duplicated in the way that Infernal Affairs was, it was a breath of fresh air for someone like me (and I’m sure there are many of us out there) who just miss the old school days of Hong Kong action cinema at its finest.
I’m also happy to report that this really is a gorgeous looking film and it feels like the Blu-ray experience is essential. With sweeping vistas and swooping helicopters and impossibly handsome faces firing weapons dramatically, it’s all very cinematic and benefits from the beautiful image quality found on this disc. Aside from that you get an EPK-style mini-featurette and a trailer. It’s not a fully loaded disc by any stretch, and a nice high definition viewing on a streaming service someday could suffice versus needing to own this particular Blu-ray. But fans of Hong Kong action will likely find as much to enjoy in Extraordinary Mission as I did.
And I’m Out.
Extraordinary Mission hits Blu-ray and Digital Feb. 6th, 2018 from Cinedigm and Crimson Forest Films