The Mission (1999)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 19, 1999 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - China, Hong Kong  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This slick production from the prolific Johnny To is a surprisingly artsy and subtle variation on the usual Hong Kong action fare. The premise of Cheung Fo may seem excessively simple on paper, but the script layers it with plenty of nice character touches, like the quietly funny scenes of the bodyguards bonding with each other. It also pulls off a pair of killer twists near the end that transform the film from a stylized action outing into a mediation on the meaning of friendship. Johnny To keeps this unexpectedly complex scenario afloat by giving it a light but stylish touch that blends plenty of humor in along with the expected action; a highlight in this vein is a "minimalist" shootout set in a deserted mall that uses only a few bullets. Cheung Fo further benefits from subtly effective performances by a collection of top-shelf Hong Kong character actors. Cult favorite Anthony Wong takes the top honors as the steely but secretly warm-hearted leader Curtis, but Simon Yam also delivers an entertaining and memorable turn as Frank. All in all, Cheung Fo is an intelligently crafted change of pace for Hong Kong action fans, and smart enough to appeal to foreign film enthusiasts who normally don't go for this sort of fare.