There's a deal going down in this hotel where one group of Italian gangsters are exchanging a suitcase full of diamonds for a suitcase full of cash from a group of Hong Kong gangsters, but just as they are handed over they have been unaware that a third party has taken an interest. He is King Kong (Samuel Hui) an expert cat burglar with a wealth of gadgets at his disposal, one of which is a harpoon he fires from a building across the street straight into the room where the deal was occurring, though not before he sends a smoke grenade in there first to spread confusion among the gangsters. He slips down the wire and into the room where he picks up the case of diamonds then makes good his escape - all in a day's work.
This was the beginning of the Mad Mission series, also known as Aces Go Places or by its original title Zuijia Paidang, meaning something like "Best Partners" in English. It ran to six entries including the brief revival in the nineties, but for most of its fans this summed up nineteen-eighties action flicks as seen by the filmmakers of Hong Kong. Certainly there were plenty who followed in this movie's footsteps, and Jackie Chan especially was taking notes, but there was something about this franchise that generated a lot of affection in its aficionados who appreciated its broad humour and dangerous-looking stuntwork, and the three stars were forever identified with it, probably because they kept returning to the property.
Not that Mad Mission sprang fully formed from nowhere, as the action comedy had been thriving in the previous decade with such Western entries as Smokey and the Bandit and the James Bond series, the real mega-successes informing the efforts in the same vein throughout the next decade. What marked this out in its opener was not just the jokes, which were pretty hokey and reliant on cartoonish behaviour from its cast (not to mention a whole plotline lifted from the Dick Emery movie Ooh... You Are Awful), but the manner in which it mixed in sequences where stuntmen would risk life and limb for a scene or even a shot lasting mere seconds: cars went flying and exploded, and people pretty much did the same, only without the exploding part, all for the sake of spectacle.
That spectacle was something to behold for all that, as King Kong starts as he means to go on with the whole introduction devoted to his escape from the hotel using a motorbike he takes into the lift and once out, a gyrocopter familiar from one of the earlier Bond movies. It's a way of kicking things off that says, yeah, we're going to show that anything those other blockbusters can do we can do just as well, and to an extent that's precisely what they did, though there are many who may like this initial instalment but prefer the sequels. Still, as a method of establishing what not only this series but a whole genre of movies would have in store for Hong Kong cinema it was no surprise Mad Mission caught on in a big way both home and abroad, though you may find yourself cringing at some of what happens - it just doesn't look safe.
Our three leads were Samuel Hui, the thief with a heart of gold arrested by cops Karl Maka as Albert Au (shaven-headed as a reference to Kojak, a hit on Hong Kong TV) and Sylvia Chang as Superintendent Nancy Ho, whose aggression in her pursuit of justice leads to many gags about her supposed masculinity, a character trait that disappears when she thinks Au has a thing for her and she turns all girly and coy. These three team up to foil the so-called White Glove (Robert Houston), the mastermind behind the diamond deal who wants his loot back, though there were also diversions from other ne'erdowells, including an excursion to Venice seemingly for the hell of it (and because Moonraker did it) where a Marlon Brando in The Godfather-looky likey discusses the Italians' next move. Elements such as that lent an appearance that no expense was spared, and audiences appreciated it, with its bizarre asides as having Kui and Maka dress as Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless to interrupt Tsui Hark's ballet presented in a why not? manner. Why not indeed? Catchy music, too (Hui contributed to that as well).