Reviewed by YTSL
The beautiful images fashioned by Jingle Ma have
been a highpoint of films like "City of Glass", "Comrades, Almost a Love
Story", "Handsome Siblings" and "Kawashima Yoshiko". However, I have
been less enamored with all three of his directorial efforts (1998's "Hot
War", 1999's "Fly Me to Polaris" and now this year's Chinese New Year blockbuster).
Similarly, while I thought that Kelly Chan's singing contributed to the
magic of "Lost and Found" and "Anna Magdalena", her acting abilities do
seem to be somewhat suspect in quality. Put succinctly: I wish
Mr. Ma would stick to being a cinematographer and Ms. Chan would settle
for being a Cantopop (and J-pop) idol.
Instead, TOKYO RAIDERS brings director Ma,
Kelly Chan and -- someone who I don't mind but quite a few other Hong Kong
movie fans love to hate -- Ekin Cheng together again two years after their
making the techno-actioneer Hot War that had lots of cool imagery (Ma also
shot the film) but not much heart. Although this big budget Golden
Harvest production also stars the extremely capable Tony Leung Chiu Wai
and features a "special" -- think sweet but short and out-of-place -- appearance
by Cecilia Cheung (the popular female lead of the one weepy Ma has made),
it has many of the same problems of "Hot War" (and other "Western style"
Hong Kong action attempts). And more besides. So much so that
I actually consider it to be the least entertaining, lamest and weakest
of the director-cinematographer's works.
On a personal note, the absolute -- and prolonged
-- nadir of TOKYO RAIDERS must be Kelly Chan's character: A Hong Kong woman
named Macy who is jilted at the altar of a Las Vegas establishment who
goes to Tokyo -- with Ekin Cheng's too-much-of-a-kungfu-expert-to-really-be-an-interior-designer
character and a heavy suitcase in tow -- in search of her Japanese beau;
someone who could only scream and be shoved aside or easily captured in
any battle; there to really just be a pathetic damsel in distress who is
to be pitied. Gawwwwd. I wish that Michelle Yeoh could have
appeared to kick her sorry butt and would pay quite a bit to see Brigitte
Lin wilt her with no more than a trademark glare.
To be "fair" though, not a single character managed
to come off well in this flashy but soulless film. This is due in
large part to TOKYO RAIDERS' story -- something about Macy being seen by
various groups as the key to finding her boyfriend and the evidence for
his being involved with flooding Japan with counterfeit yen notes -- being
way too outlandish and full of one-dimensional individuals double - and
triple-crossing one another.
Then there's the matter of all of the actors
(and actresses) who play sleuths and secret agents in this action work
very obviously lacking much martial arts abilities. Hence their characters
not doing all that much fighting (this especially applies to the females
in this movie) or the performers' very obviously needing stunt doubles
-- not just wires -- to make them look good when in (more complex than
usual) motion. To be sure, I do realize that not everyone who appears
in Hong Kong movies can be like Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao or Yuen Wah.
However, it's not as though the HKSAR even now lacks good-looking performers
who can be convincing both in fight and dramatic scenes (I think here of
Yu Rong-Guang, Chieu Man Cheuk (a.k.a. Zhao Wen-Zhou) and Tsang Sze-Man).
It seriously does not help matters on the action
front that the music chosen to accompany the fight sequences make one inclined
to laugh rather than marvel at what's on show. Perhaps this was done
to emphasize that TOKYO RAIDERS is a festive -- and therefore light --
offering. If so, why put into the middle of a film a scene which
was sad as well as actually touching, (whose created feeling was then destroyed
by the subsequently flippant actions of the individuals involved in it)?
A note to those knowledgeable readers of this review: Please don't
tell me it was there just so that an additional song could be inserted
into this movie!
Okay, deep breath. So why does TOKYO RAIDERS
merit some points (and viewing)? For one thing, there is Jingle Ma's
consistently impressive cinematography. Then there's my appreciation
of the moviemakers' recognition and good use of theirs -- and ours -- not
being a monolingual world. There also is some fun gadgetry on show.
And sad but true: I will give it quite a bit of credit for being
a post 1997 Hong Kong action movie which does NOT have the kind of cheesy
CGI effects of such as "A Man Called Hero" and "Hot War". Ultimately,
the movie's high production values do count for something too.
My rating for the film: 4.5
Pictures obtained from Golden Harvest
Website and Sanney's site.