mardi 8 décembre 2009

Aspirin needed - Aces Go Places : The Mad Hong Kong James Bond spoof series , Part 1

Fasten your seat-belts !

I've started slowly with the mild ' From Hong Kong With Love ' and ' Le Magnifique ' but I'm now going full speed with a review of that unique Action/ Comedy HK film series , which I discovered at the Cannes International Film Market in the 80's .

Although truly atrocious by Western standards in terms of comedy and acting , those films hugely make up for with their truly unbelievable stunts , shot without any CGI or computer effect of any sort .

A vehicle for a HK comic duo , formed by Inspector 'Kojak' ( Karl Maka , the Baldy one . at least ,that his name in the US subtitled versions I've seen - and bought in CDV ) and his younger sidekick/ nemesis , Sam , the Ladies Man , subtly nicknamed...King Kong ( honest ! ) played by Sam Hui .

The story of each entry of the film series is basically the same : King Kong tries to commit the theft of the Century ...And Inspector Kojak ( spelt Kojirak in HK original version ) tries to do his best to catch him during the whole movie ...
Now that I think of it , that structure reminds me of the...Pink Panther series !!!

I won't go into describing the various scripts ( more or less the same story ,with different settings ).
Suffice to say the movies are truly spectacular by themselves .

By number two, the series had already gained some international Cult following ( even in France , where the obligatory Cannes Film Market one & only Midnight screening of each new film became THE event not to be missed for young movie critics of my generation . Still clearly remember the pure madness of each of those screening ,with the audience - apparently only composed of Professionnals from the medias & the Industry alike - , screamed , hooted and laughed during each viewing...Not forgetting enthusiastically whistling the catching tune theme of the series ! see & hear video 2 ) .

So let's concentrate on the more ' Bond- orientated ' entries of the series .
Which are ,first , the aptly named 'AGP 3 - Our Man From Bond Street ' , and the following one ' AGP 4 - You Never Die Twice ' ( God , I missed those cheesy titles in our bleak 21rst Century Film entries ) ;
Directed by none other than Tsui Hark himself , AGP3 is a roller-coaster of a movie .

To my knowledge ,two different versions officially exist : a normal Hong Kong edited one , and a slightly more tight one ( story-wise ) for export . Since I got both I won't bother going into specifics and will only review the main set scenes ...

Let's first try to get a decent synopsis out of the frenetic ,no hold barred story .
Said story begins in Paris where our Hero , ' King Kong ' , has just stolen a fabulous diamond belonging to none other than Her Majesty Elisabeth II ...

His scheme to achieve such exploit makes the Ethan Hunt 's Mission Impossible plans truly ...Laughable in comparision ( rocket-propelled skate-board ,underwater re breather anyone ? ) .
Unfortunately for him , the Opposition - in the guise of Jaws ( Richard Kiel himself ) and an Odjobb look-alike - managed to substitute said diamond .

Sam is then recruited by Her Majesty ( who casually cruises under the Seine in her private submarine - as big as the Red October one ! Aboard the ship is also that mysterious ' Man From Bond Street ' , who turns out to be ...You-know-you , and who'll finally appear as a dastardly traitor by the end of the movie .Shocking ! ) to retrieve the Royal diamond and save the Crown of England .

Inspector Kojak , on another hand , is still fuming trying to catch Sam ( which he failed to do at the last minute of every entry of the series ) .

It's really a bit like the classic Warner Road Runner cartoon ...With humans !

That's the main core of the film . Like I said the basic story in itself is not that important . What's really catching the eye is the stunts .

We know HK actors are famous for their Stunt habilities ( see Jackie Chan, a former stunt man himself ) and the ' Aces Go Places ' series is clearly a catalogue of the most fantastic motorized , air-borne and...Underwater stunts ever devised for movies !

And there's also the Gadgets ,which would make Q green with envy : radio controled toys , missile-launching helicopter , twin Machine guns mounted on 'James Bond' vintage coupé sportcar...Not to forget the deadly hat of our old friend Odjobb : those guys obviously knew their Classics !

Oh..I almost forgot to mention the guest-stars , who became a trademark early on in each new entry . In OMFBS , we got Richard Kiel , Peter Greaves ( in Jim Phelps mode ) , the aforementionned Oddjob look-alike - with a right steel-hand ! , a Sean Connery / James Bond sort of ( looking more like OSS 117 Jean Dujardin than the Scottish actor but , heck... ) .

One last word : it's really ...Uncanny how similar are some action sequences from AGP III To...A View To A Kill ones . The Eiffel Tower fight is almost a carbon copy of the 007 one ( made several years later ) . Is Eon a fan of the Aces Go Places film series ? Go figure ( if I may say so ) ...

If you can put your brain on the 'off ' mode for a couple of hours , I'd cheerfully advise you to try at least to watch ' Our Man From Hong Kong ' ... And then perhaps try the following one ' You Never Die Twice ' ,which I'll introduce to you , innocent audience , by a next Post !

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