NYAFF 2017 Review:  Extraordinary Mission (China 2017)

Extraordinary Mission is exactly the kind of movie that Hong Kong as always excelled at – a twisty undercover cop thriller that frequently breaks out into no-holds-barred action scenes.  Very much in the spirit of its direct cinematic forebears like Infernal Affairs, Hard Boiled and City on Fire, Extraordinary Mission exists very much in that HK world where undercover cops are constantly having to escape their own while proving to vicious crime lords just how cold they are.  Except, this isn’t a Hong Kong film at all, it’s another example of China drinking Hong Kong’s milkshake.

To be fair, Extraordinary Mission’s pedigree is mixed.  The screenplay and direction both come partly from Alan Mak, one of the main creative forces behind Infernal Affairs.  The cop here is Lin Kai, played by Huang Xuan.  Huang doesn’t bring a lot of character (he’s no Chow Yun-fat or Tony Leung), but what he lacks in charisma he makes up for in steely determination.  And he is anyway overshadowed entirely by Duan Yihong as Eagle, the film’s villain, a ruthless Golden Triangle drug lord with personal connections to Lin Kai’s handler.  And the Thai setting allows for a Scarface-like atmosphere when the film finally penetrates Eagle’s sanctum.

Given the slightly underwhelming protagonist, I appreciated that the film didn’t waste a lot of time on backstory or creating some schmaltzy subplot involving a pining wife or girlfriend, but the unfortunate result is that Lin Kai remains something of a cipher, especially in relation to the more dynamic villain.  That, and the solid but not spectacular action sequences (one late film motorcycle stunt excepted) keep this film from reaching the highest echelons, but Extraordinary Mission is still great fun and rousing entertainment.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars (Good).  Extraordinary Mission is playing as part of the New York Asian Film Festival on July 1.

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