The Impossible Kid

Certificate: 15
Running time: 81 mins
Director: Eddie Nicart
Starring: Weng Weng, Romy Diaz, Nina Sara
Genre: Action, Exploitation
Country: Philippines

They are to the Filipino Exploitation movement what Scorsese and De Niro are to contemporary Hollywood, Nicart and Weng Weng reteam for a third instalment in the tale of Agent 00, the first being For Y’ur Height Only followed by Agent 00.  Made the year after Weng Weng exploded on to the World (with For Y’ur Height Only) The Impossible Kid sees our hero now working for Interpol and involved in a mystery that threats to destroy the entire financial structure of the Philippines. 

The PCI are being blackmailed by an evil and deadly organisation called Cobra which is led by a masked maniac.  Their objective is simple, one million peso or they will kill a member of the PCI for each day the demand is not met.  When the PCI reach out to Interpol they send their best man, a man who’s been marked for death by just about every criminal and gang in Asia…Agent Weng, Codename 00.  Foiling the plot Weng is targeted by Cobra only for him to suspect that there’s a greater, darker menace at work here.

For Y’ur Height Only was the surprise hit of the Manila Film Festival in 1981, it is a straight forward embrace of the fundamental conventions of Ian Fleming’s superspy.  The Impossible Kid takes the ‘Agent 00 franchise’ back to the Bond realm but also makes reference to such secret agent institutions as Mission: Impossible, GI Joe and a score that’s indicative of Henry Mancini’s icon musical renderings for Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther.  It’s worth pointing out that like the score for FYHO it is beautifully catchy in it’s mimicry.  The tone of TIK is one of the most interesting changes in the evolution of the 00 films.  Gone are the slightly out of place but wonderfully comical snippets of dialogue from Weng Weng in which he uses his height to play on audience expectations and villains sympathies.  They were hugely entertaining and allowed you to enjoy watching Weng Weng play on scenarios throughout the film and most importantly laugh with him.  These are replaced with a more serious tone, even the voice actor providing the dubbing for Agent 00 is a good half dozen octaves lower than previously, an alteration that leads the audience to laugh at him.  In an effort to afford him the stereotypical hero sophistication that is perceived from a deep smooth voice they have somehow managed to dub over the films most intoxicating aspect, it’s joyful exuberance, the playfulness that no doubt won the imaginations of many of the audience at that festival screening of For Y’ur Height Only.

The story is a solid tale of extortion, deception and danger.  Like before they have constructed several physical set pieces to showcase the skill, agility and daring of the two foot nine inch Sean Connery of Baclaran and like all good action sequels they are bigger and better than before.  Of the many, and I do mean many, occurring in The Impossible Kid a handful spring to mind with the two most impressive being Weng Weng’s parachuting from a hotel room using only a bed sheet and his tightrope walking across a telephone cable using a television antenna for balance.  There are several martial arts sequences designed to showcase the skills that Weng Weng has built up over his lifetime.  The six on one fight in the workout room is probably the most impressive as he demonstrates a level of precision that’s unexpected from an actor.

Weng Weng gives an extremely well rounded performance as he steps up to the challenges that face an action hero.  He has a confidence from his previous two outings in the role that gives the character an on screen assurance that’s hugely beneficial to this type of character.  The only criticism is that the seriousness of the dubbing and the heavy amount of combatitive scenes means that the character, who’s always had a mischievous side to him. pushes out this trait, which is a real shame.  Weng Weng was always convincing in the physical roles but he shone through when being “up to no good”.  Romy Diaz (as Senor Manolo) provides a wonderfully theatrical performance as the Chairman of the PCI.  Romy’s screen presence is such that he draws the gaze of the audience; he calls for it to find him.  As an ally he seemed to wilt but it’s when he takes issue with Agent 00’s methods and becomes a “same side antagonist” that he really comes into his own not to mention the fact he’s got a laugh that could clear a chimney.  Long time fans of Filipino cinema will, no doubt, be playing 'Spot Joe Cunanan', and it’s a pleasure to always see him regardless of the amount of time he actually features on screen for.  Ben Johnson (as the Chief) is the films biggest problem.  I liked the rapport that Agent 00 had with his previous Chief, in For Y’ur Height Only, he was somewhere between father and fan leading to some incredibly endearing, if odd interactions.  Johnson on the other hand is awkward, his delivery unsure, as though he was learning the script as he goes, and lacks any chemistry with Weng Weng.  

Nicart's direction deserves to be highlighted.  His films, like those of Bobby Suarez (They Called Her Cleopatra Wong, The One Armed Executioner) are small in budget but Nicart's use of lighting, camera positioning and the intuitive understanding of how far you can push what you show when you don't have the pesos to back it up are all remarkable.  His use of editing is another credit to an extremely talented and creative director.

The Impossible Kid is an another shining example of how the Filipino film makers have been paying attention to their American guests over the previous two decades.  As an examination of the action genre the film passes with flying colours as it does and says all the right things but in ramping up the amount of elaborate set pieces they’ve detracted from some of the charm of it’s predecessor and though still wonderful in it’s enthusiasm and aspirations flirts dangerously with being less than the sum of it’s parts.

For those of you who want it the DVD is available [here] and available to stream free of charge directly below.  Don't forget to check out the Movie Bar On Demand to see this months free Exploitation double bill.


Alex Jowski said...

Wow I didn't know there were really Filipino exploitation films like this. And that title of "For Your Height Only" just cracks me up.

John Baxter said...

Yeah once Roger Corman's crew moved out they started doing things for themselves in a big way. If you have 90 minutes you should watch it.

Ty said...

Great review! Will have to check out this sequel. Gotta love Weng-Weng!

John Baxter said...

Cheers Ty, the little man was a massive exploitation presence.

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