EXTRAORDINARY MISSION (2017) review

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Felix Chong and Alan Mak, the writers of the classic Infernal Affairs trilogy, are back to the undercover thriller (the former as screenwriter and the latter as co-director with cinematographer Anthony Pun), and they’ve made the anti-Infernal Affairs. Extraordinary Mission follows Lin Kai (Huang Xuan) a cop sent to infiltrate a drug cartel by his superior Li Jianguo (Zu Feng), a former undercover himself. Fiercely motivated by the death of his mother from a drug overdose when he was a child, Lin quickly penetrates the cartel, until he finds an occasion to meet its ruthless, possibly deranged leader Eagle (Duan Yihong), and earn his trust to then dismantle the whole network.

As aforementioned, Extraordinary Mission is the anti-Infernal Affairs, an explosive, at times cartoonish undercover thriller that fancies itself a franchise-starter and features narrative shortcuts, un-killable villains and even a dash of gravity-defying stuntwork. Indeed, with its sweltering Golden Triangle atmosphere and spectacular action scenes, it is a much closer cousin to Dante Lam’s Operation Mekong. It often feels like there was a much more clever script at some point, that was then dumbed down – and cleaned up for censorship considerations. Indeed, what starts like a level-headed examination of drug-trafficking (including collusion with local police), reminiscent of Johnnie To’s Drug War, quickly devolves – or grows, depending on one’s tastes – into an almost baroque action film. Interesting touches, like Eagle’s philanthropic side (he operates a primary school), his method of getting Lin Kai addicted to heroine to bind him closely to his interests and test his resolve, or the moral conflicts of one of his underlings (an ultimately underwritten role of which Lang Yueting makes the most in a very understated way), are hinted at but never really developed.

Duan Yihong is impressively charismatic and intimidating as Eagle (easily blowing the rather bland Huang Xuan off the screen) but there is the feeling that his fun performance might have been a masterful, devastating one with a subtler script. Zu Feng is all righteousness as Lin Kai’s supervisor, but when his own backstory is added into the finale, it feels shoehorned rather than organically dramatic. Then all these considerations are blown into the wind as Extraordinary Mission ends with almost half an hour of all-out action, all orchestrated with customary skill by Li Chung Chi, and oscillating between grounded urban warfare and rooftop extravaganza, as Lin Kai almost flies around on his motorbike, and unspeakable things are done with bazookas. It’s very satisfying finale if one has come to terms with the fact that this film is a slightly outrageous action thriller, not a smart and intricate undercover drama.

Long Story Short: An entertaining and explosive action thriller that could have been much more. ***

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1 Comment

  1. The ”anti-Infernal Affairs” that made me chuckle.

    Reply

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