Review: THE MISSION 鎗火 (1999) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: THE MISSION 鎗火 (1999)

Review: THE MISSION 鎗火 (1999)

Five different triad members are brought together for one mission: to protect Brother Lung (Ko Hung) from a bunch of unknown assassins. There are Curtis (Anthony Wong), a hairstylist but once a cold-blooded killer in the past; Roy (Francis Ng), a minor triad boss with a short-tempered attitude; Roy's right-hand man Shin (Jackie Lui); James (Lam Suet), the groundnuts-munching and resident gun expert; and Mike (Roy Cheung), a parking boy who is also an ace marksman.


REVIEW: The year 1999 was no doubt a banner year for director Johnnie To. His two movies, WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES and the commercial box-office smash RUNNING OUT OF TIME has continued To's winning streak for his Milkyway production.

But of all, it was THE MISSION that sees him as his most meticulously-structured movie ever made so far. Unlike his aforementioned movies, THE MISSION is more personal and intimate. Even though the movie explores Hong Kong's favourite cinematic theme of triad underworld, brotherhood, loyalty and code of honour that obviously echoes the best of John Woo-like approach, this is more of an unexpected crime thriller stressing in the power of minimalism. Such result might alienate most casual viewers who have previously enjoy Johnnie To's past work, notably RUNNING OUT OF TIME but those who are adventurous enough will find this minimalist piece of work indeed a rare gem.

As brief as it sounds, Yau Nai-Hoi's script remains layered even though the movie is largely lacking expository scenarios. Everything occurs with a moment of stillness: emotions are bottled, themes are unexplained and the characters are revealed bits by bits through the course of their action. To has previously cited THE SEVEN SAMURAI as a major influence, and it clearly shows here: his movie carries internal meaning that is judged via body language and telling gestures.

The cast is great, and the action is notable highlights here. Though it's hardly the kind of stylised, gun-blazing type one might expect, To and action choreographer Cheng Ka Sang favours for something uniquely different: a scene of carefully framed still shots where the characters are seen standing in strategic position while firing sparsely against their enemies. At the first glance, such concept might look boring but there are surprisingly kinetic and exciting with a realistic aura. The ending is especially lively, with an elaborate set-up that "nothing is what it seems" situation involving Shin's illicit affair with Lung's wife (Elaine Eca Da Silva) and Curtis is ordered to kill him.

If there's any flaw, it's definitely Chung Chi-Wing's overly-ambitious jazzy score that is sometimes annoying. Such nitpicking is forgivable because this movie still ranks among the genre's finest ever made in recent memory.

In addition to that, THE MISSION also nabbed 6 Hong Kong Film Awards nomination including Best Film (lost to Ann Hui's ORDINARY HEROES) while Johnnie To won the much-deserved Best Director statuette.

Johnnie To's THE MISSION presents a unique HK crime thriller that breaks from the usual norm where everything is emphasised heavily on the art of minimalism.

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