31 August 2004 | BrianDanaCamp
MISSION KISS AND KILL - Above-average kung fu tale
Don't be fooled by the silly title, which sounds like a cheap 1960s European spy thriller, MISSION KISS AND KILL (1979) is a fast-paced made-in-Taiwan kung fu adventure with two strong stars in peak form and lots of action. Lee Yi Min stars as Constable Lu in a role that's something of a departure for a star more often known for playing eager young kung fu students with a touch of goofiness about them (NINJA CHECKMATE, 7 GRANDMASTERS, SEVEN COMMANDMENTS OF KUNG FU). He still smiles here, but he's much more mature than usual as he plays an honest cop embarking on a mission to deliver eight valuable jade miniature horses. Blacky Ko (billed as Yuan Lung, who is also credited as fight choreographer) co-stars as Lu's fighting partner, giving us a rare chance to see this celebrated character actor of Hong Kong cinema (seen often in comic roles) in a starring kung fu role. He's quite good at the action and makes us wish he'd done more films like this. He also has good chemistry with Lee and they share a number of intricately planned acrobatic maneuvers (e.g. "catch the snake") in their various fights with the bad guys, including one who does "crab fist" on them. The two characters trained together as youths and continue to call each other by their nicknames, "Little Deer" for Lee, and "Monkey" for Blacky.
The plot, about getting the jade horses from one place to another, is not as rigorous as the fighting and doesn't make much sense when it's all added up. However, it's simply an excuse for lots and lots of fights with a host of reliable supporting players from kung fu films led by the always dependable Lung Fei, who plays the rich man who hires Lee for the job and finagles him into marrying his beautiful daughter, Ping-ya. (I'm assuming the actress who plays her is the fourth-billed name in the cast, Yang Jo Len, although I can't confirm it.) The fights are imaginatively staged along the route and are set in taverns, inns, roadside clearings and temples and similar historic sites.
The film was directed by Lee Tso Nam and is not as intense or as star-powered as his better-known fight fests, EAGLE'S CLAW, CHALLENGE OF DEATH, FATAL NEEDLES FATAL FISTS and THE HOT, THE COOL, AND THE VICIOUS. Still, despite its light weight and lower budget, MISSION KISS AND KILL remains a better-than-average little package for fans of kung fu action, particularly those who want to see these two stars in change-of-pace roles.