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  Asia-Pol Jimmy BondBuy this film here.
Year: 1967
Director: Matsuo Akinori
Stars: Jimmy Wang Yu, Fang Ying, Wang Hsieh, Ruriko Asaoka, Jô Shishido, Cheung Pooi-Saan, Yuen Sam, Kaku Takashina, Tomoko Hamagawa, Gam Tin-Chue
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Yang Ming Xuan (Jimmy Wang Yu) is a secret agent with the APSS - Asia Police Secret Service - on the trail of a gold-smuggling outfit in Japan. When the chief suspect is killed by an exploding golf ball (?!), Agent Yang follows the trail of clues to Hong Kong where a criminal mastermind known only as George (Jô Shishido) has stashed his gold reserve at a private casino. In the midst of his investigation and numerous attempts on his life, Yang befriends a troubled young woman named Ming Hua (Fang Ying) and discovers they both share a personal connection to this case.

As the James Bond craze swept through Sixties cinema around the world, almost every major actor and actress at Shaw Brothers got their chance to play a super-spy: Paul Chang Chung with The Golden Buddha (1966), Tang Ching in Interpol (1967) and the superior Summons to Death (1967) co-starring spy film favourite Tina Chin Fei who also headlined Temptress of a Thousand Faces (1968), Peter Chen Ho in The Brain Stealers (1968), Lily Ho Li with Angel with the Iron Fists (1966) and its sequel Angel Strikes Again (1967), and Cheng Pei Pei with Operation Lipstick (1968). Naturally, as Shaw’s biggest star Jimmy Wang Yu was given a spy vehicle of his own in Asia-Pol, which ranks as the most lavish among the studio’s genre efforts.

It was a co-production with Nikkatsu Films, then Japan’s foremost purveyors of slick, hip action flicks aimed at young cinemagoers, hence the presence of co-stars Jo Shishido as the Le Chiffre-like villain and lovely Ruriko Asaoka as Yang Ming’s Miss Moneypenny-like squeeze. Asaoka was a particular casting coup for Shaw Brothers. Widely regarded as the queen of Nikkatsu, the critically-acclaimed actress was popular across Asia as a style icon and sex symbol and seemed to headline a new movie every week. Which is likely why her character, Sachiko, comes across far more capable and clever than the average spy film love interest and, unlike poor old Moneypenny, does actually land her man at the fadeout. Also essaying a significant role is HK actress Fang Ying, another popular star at the time, routinely cast as a chaste and innocent young heroine. In later years she gave up acting to become an award-winning art director, production and costume designer.

Most of the creative personnel involved in Asia-Pol were Japanese, including director Matsuo Akinori who also made the similarly patchy The Lady Professional (1971) for Shaw Brothers. He brings a tremendous amount of style to proceedings. The film’s sweep and production values outstrip the usual studio-bound Shaw spy movies, but despite some sublime suspense sequences worthy of a proper Bond film (notably one sequence with Yang Ming trapped in a locked car with a ticking time bomb), the often impenetrable plot proves a major stumbling block. The film fails to clarify the intricacies of George’s scheme and, unusually for a Bond rip-off, Asia-Pol fuses its espionage thread with a soapy subplot wherein our hero discovers Ming Hua is his sister and that their long-lost parents were somehow involved in the gold-smuggling racket. This leads to a lot of soul-searching and speechifying. After a strong start, the film loses momentum every time things lapse into melodrama. Imagine Bond took an occasional break to whine about his personal problems.

Nevertheless, Asia-Pol has a few intriguingly offbeat elements with Wang Yu essaying a more fallible and emotionally vulnerable hero than the norm and some disarming scenes where Shishido’s surprisingly complex, mixed-race villain laments how he is going to explain the death of his moll to her parents, and later rails against the legacy of those Japanese who fathered illegitimate children in World War Two. It is Wang Yu who argues the Japanese aren’t all bad, which is ironic given the star spent the latter part of his career portraying them as inhuman monsters. Although featuring its fair share of lovely ladies, the film downplays the womanising aspect of the superspy’s life in favour of chaste romance in keeping with Wang Yu’s no-nonsense image. Compare this with The Man from Hong Kong (1975) where he put it about like no-one’s business.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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