SPECIAL MISSION (2018) review

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Yin Chenyang’s Special Mission follows an elite mercenary (Fan Siu Wong) who joins forces with a detective (Augusta Xu-Holland) to find and rescue a Middle-Eastern princess who’s been kidnapped in Bangkok by a shady criminal known as ‘Black Star’ (Si Ligeng). As bland and generic as its title, the film clocks in at barely 70 minutes and isn’t much more than a string of perfunctory scenes trying hard to resemble recent Chinese hits. There’s tanks and a unit called “The Wolves” (Wolf Warrior 1 & 2: check), there’s naval officer determinedly pacing on a military vessel’s deck (Operation Red Sea: check), and more importantly there’s a duo of operatives investigating in Thailand (Operation Mekong: check). Of course, while it’s all shot and edited with a basic amount of technical competence, everything looks puny in comparison to the aforementioned blockbusters. So instead of a drawn-out speedboat chase on the Mekong, you’ll have to make do with a short jet ski chase on the Chao Phraya.

Action is frustratingly sparse, with enough varied short scuffles and shootouts to edit a nice trailer, but not enough to thrill even a little – a shame considering Fan Siu Wong is always a joy to watch in action. The martial arts stalwart deserves much better, though he’s well-matched with Augusta Xu-Holland, who has presence and seems like she might be an engaging actress, if given an actual, fleshed-out role. At least there’s frequent involuntary hilarity: this is a film that dares to try to pass off an obvious view of Bangkok as “Marseilles France” (sic), the equivalent of using a shot of Vancouver for Venice (there’s even still Thai inscriptions everywhere, but you know it’s indeed France because an extra says “bonjour”). And the final fight is ridiculously folded away into an emotional montage of selected moments from the past hour, a head-scratching moment of spectacularly un-earned pathos, followed by an absurd cliffhanger (somebody thought this film just might get a sequel). The music is quite solid, but that’s only because the composer pilfered James Newton-Howard techno-thriller scores for Salt and The Bourne Legacy.

Long Story Short: A cheap knock-off of recent Chinese action hits. The ever-appealing Fan Siu Wong deserves much better. *1/2

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2 Comments

  1. A decent budget action film, barely 70 minutes? Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about my own feature films being so short. Did this get a cinema release?

    Reply
  2. No, it’s a straight-to-VOD release…

    Reply

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