ⓘ The Mission (1999 film)

                                     

ⓘ The Mission (1999 film)

The Mission is a 1999 Hong Kong crime film produced and directed Johnnie To, and starring Anthony Wong, Francis Ng, Jackie Lui, Lam Suet, and Simon Yam.

                                     

1. Plot

The triad boss Lung survives an assassination attempt in a restaurant, with one of his men being killed during the hit. The restaurant is owned by "Fat Cheung", an underboss of Lungs triad.

For his protection he hires a team of five men: Curtis normally works as a hairdresser and is the most experienced of the group, the loner James, night club owner Roy and his younger gang colleague Shin and Mike, a former pimp.

An initial assassination attempt on Lung fails when a sniper attacks the cars with Lung and his bodyguards from the rooftop of a high-rise. Lung gets shot, but a bullet-proof vest prevents further damage. The men manage to fight off the attack and Curtis decides to leave in the cars with Lung, James, Mike and Shin even though Roy hasnt returned he left the scene to pursue a second attacker. Roy returns angrily in a taxi to Lungs house and beats up Curtis who doesnt oppose. The next day Curtis makes amends by killing a criminal who harassed Roys night club.

The five bodyguards are fighting off two additional assassination attempts and trail a surviving hitman to the hideout of the attackers. After a gunfight they manage to capture one of the assassins alive. It becomes evident that the hits were contracted by Fat Cheung and Lung sends his henchmen Frank to kill him. The bodyguards kill the captured hitman and the five men celebrate the end of their mission in a restaurant.

Frank hands out five envelopes with the pay to Curtis and tells him that he learnt about an affair between Shin and the wife of Lung. He requests that Shin disappears and Curtis tells him that hell take care of it. Curtis drives to James, asks him for a gun and arranges a meeting with Shin in the evening. James warns Roy and since hes responsible for Shin as his boss, he confronts him with the allegation. Shin confesses having been seduced by Mrs. Lung. Roy tells Curtis that he cant allow for Shin being killed. They form the plan to have Shin escape in a boat to Taiwan but eventually discard the plan since Frank would then pursue Roy and the rest of them for failing instead.

In the evening the five men meet in an otherwise empty restaurant to sort out the situation. James leaves to ask Lung for clemency and to spare Shins life. When he arrives at Lungs house he witnesses a henchmen of Lung killing the unfaithful Mrs. Lung. James realises the hopelessness of his attempt and returns to the restaurant where it comes to a Mexican standoff between the men. Curtis shoots Shin, while Roy empties his magazine without aiming at Curtis. When the men leave the restaurant, Curtis throws a blank towards James, thus revealing that the death of Shin who escapes through the backdoor was staged for Lung.

                                     

2. Reception

The Mission was well received. In a 2004 interview with director Johnnie To for the website GreenCine, Sean Axmaker states that The Mission is "the best crime film to come from Hong Kong in years. Its austere and still, beautifully composed and tense, and the characters are professional and efficient, positioning themselves for efficiency and communicating and interacting silently while on the job." Similarly, an overview of Tos body of work that precedes an interview for the magazine Cineaste refers to the film as "Tos masterpiece," "a brilliantly conceived, shot, and edited gangster film."

In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and stunt actors to list their top action films. The Mission was listed at 86th place on this list.