Heavenly Mission (2006)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2011-01-27
Summary: A poor effort
"Heavenly Mission" depicts faux-Buddhism passive acquiescence to the world as it currently exists. It is wrapped in the images and icons of a crime movie and weighted down with stock characters, an off the shelf plot and clutter of conflicting themes. With a running time of almost two hours it is a bloated mess that slowly hammers away at its facile ideas, proving nothing.

All of which is unfortunate. “Heavenly Mission” is well cast with highly professional artists. Although lacking in star power there are competent actors in every part; it is just that the parts written for them are of the stand around and talk (or stand around and look meaningful, enraged or frightened). The writers—two of whom appeared as actors in the film and should have known better—never use one word where ten will do; if a point is worth making once it seems it is worth making again. And again and again.

The look of the movie is what makes it watchable. Art director Bill Lui Cho-Hung did a great job, not only with the splashy “look at that” type sets such as the Thai cave temple with a huge black Buddha surrounded by rows of offerings but also on the more typical sets such as a karaoke bar with mirrored string curtains and the luxurious but sterile estate of the Kok family. Cinematographers Ng Man-Ching and Ng Man-Juen also did a great job of showing and framing the action. There were some obvious demo reel shots one using the mirror curtains to great effect, a number of the always effective shots of the Hong Kong skyline including a few from the harbor but in general they simply turned out compelling and convincing shots of the action (or lack of it).

None of the actors made much of an impression. Stephen Fung is always angry or about to be angry; Ekin Cheng is so slow moving and somnolent that one might think he nodded off in the middle of a scene; Julian Cheung is much too callow and clumsy to be the consigliore/lawyer behind Autumn Yip’s restoration while Alex Fong continues to play Alex Fong, consistently delivering the same performance with the same quirks and mannerisms no matter what the role. Ti Lung walked through his role as Big Brother although showed more authenticity and real emotion than anyone. Nikki Chow played against type as the ditzy gangster girlfriend instead of her more typical roles: executive, lawyer, psychiatrist, actress.

Hong Kong has produced many great crime films: “Hard Boiled”, “The Mission” and more than a few with strong and moving Buddhist themes: “Running on Karma”, “Love au Zen” and of course “Infernal Affairs” I and II which combine everything so perfectly. “Beautiful Mission” seems to be an attempt at combining Buddhism and crime/suspense but it doesn’t work well on any level.
Reviewer Score: 3