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  Mad Mission Part 4: You Never Die Twice Raiders Of The Found Ark
Year: 1986
Director: Ringo Lam
Stars: Samuel Hui, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang, Sally Yeh, Onno Boelee, Peter McCauley, Ronald Lacey, Roy Chiao, Sandy Dexter, Gayle-Anne Jones, Cyrus Wong, Cho Tat-wah, Kwan Tak-Hing, Shih Kien, Shi Pomson, Tsang Kwok Chi, Fung Ging Man
Genre: Comedy, Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: A professor is walking down the street carrying a briefcase when he is accosted by two men who pull up in a car, one of them brandishing a knife and ordering him inside the vehicle. He resists and the car door hits the blade-wielder, accidentally stabbing the boffin but also giving him the chance to run away into a nearby bar where he was supposed to meet his contact. He is to hand over a special prism which is the key component of a secret weapon that has the potential to hold the fate of the world within its power, but the two heavies have followed him in and a scuffle breaks out, only to be challenged by good-hearted rogue King Kong (Samuel Hui) who sees off the villains with force...

One thing you'll notice about this instalment in the Mad Mission series, which ran for more or less the whole of the nineteen-eighties, not including a belated effort later on, is that the action was a lot more violent this time around, with even the supposed good guys gunning down their share of baddies, and many put the blame for that on the shoulders of the director they had found for it, Ringo Lam. He made his name with action thrillers that had a harder edge than was usual here, so presumably producer, screenwriter and star Karl Maka was making a statement about hiring him for the post, that somehow these lighthearted adventures were not messing around this time out.

Fair enough, with all this death and destruction maybe it wasn't so much of a laughing matter, but if you thought Maka had given up on the humour entirely then you would be mistaken. True, the barrage of puns and wordplay that defined the dialogue was as usual barely translated for overseas audiences, relying on the slapstick to get the laughs across as in the comic ice hockey match, which did render this a meaner entry than anything that had gone before, even to the extent of the series most beloved character almost dying during the finale, but they don't kill him off since they still planned to make another one after this generated more success at the box office. Not only the domestic one either, as foreigners lapped up these movies too.

And one of those regions where they were hits was New Zealand, so in the way of emulating the James Bond series, the producers settled on their next exotic location, and the land of the kiwi was it. It may not seem as exotic if you actually lived there, but Bond himself had not ventured that far in his own movies so it was nice for a change to see something genuinely international come out of Hong Kong, mostly thanks to the mighty profits this franchise made. But no matter where they were set, the formula was much the same: blow things up, fall off high places, drive vehicles very, very fast, and still find time to arse about in the gaps between those setpieces. It's just that Lam was proving a far more muscular presence behind the camera and that translated to the dramatic events on the screen.

Events which oddly were not only Bond-influenced, but Raiders of the Lost Ark-influenced as well. Fair enough, that blockbuster featured some of the greatest action sequences of the eighties and filmmakers have tried to top it ever since, but it was not altogether a snug fit with the Hong Kong spy games, despite the presence of one of the stars. Yes, Harrison Ford himself... was too expensive so they recruited one of the character actors who played a Nazi, Ronald Lacey, probably one of the most memorably skin-crawling evildoers in the decade's entertainments, though that just went to show what a strong script and direction can do, as here he might as well have been anybody filling the role in light of what he was offered. More brightly, pop star Sally Yeh joined the cast as antagonistic love interest for Kong, rolling up her sleeves and wading into the mayhem, though the scenes where Maka and regular Sylvia Chang tried to save their young son from the henchmen were more alarming than presumably intended, with the moppet hanging from a building. It was frenetic enough. Music by Tony A.

Aka: Zui jia pai dang 4: Qian li jiu chai po, Aces Go Places IV
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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