Tokyo Raiders

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.