It is really hard for me to say that director Kevin Chu’s and award-winning (Almost a Love Story) writer Ivy Chu’s “TREASURE HUNTER” is a successful film; it has some recognizable faces, some fun action sequences and a crowd-pleasing atmosphere but it comes a lot short of expectations. While not as “SUCK-tacular” as “Twilight New Moon” it sure isn’t as great as other martial arts adventure movies that I’ve become so familiar with. The film has commercial sensibilities written all over it, and while I wasn’t impressed I can still see why the film was able to bring in some decent box-office receipts in Asia. A cross-blending of genres were proven successful by recent Asian hits “Sukiyaki Western Django” and “The Good The Bad The Weird” so China takes a shot with this attempt.
Qiao Fei (Jay Chou) is a long-haired, whip-wielding adventurer who is on the job of preventing tomb raiders from lifting antiquities from their final resting place. One day he is drawn to find the “Lost City”, believed to be the spot where unimaginable amounts of gold are kept and a pearl that has supposed mystical properties. Oh, there is also a curse that have caused several of its seekers to die. When an archaeologist (Kenneth Tsang) is murdered, Qiao Fei is joined by his beautiful daughter and old flame, Lan Ting (model Lin Chi-Ling, Red Cliff) to find the secrets of the hidden city. Together they must compete with several other treasure hunters including possible allies Pork Rib (Eric Tsang) and Master Hua (Chen Dao Ming); Hua has a past experience with the Lost City. Now there is also the mythical warrior called “The Eagle of the Desert”….
Think martial arts, part Asian mysticism, the backdrop of “Indiana Jones” and you will have an idea how this movie plays out. It plays a lot like Jet Li’s 1996 flick “The Scripture with No Words” that uses the Indy Jones gimmick with cool wire fu to bring forth a lot of entertainment factor. The thing is, “Treasure Hunter” lacks that film’s wit, charm and campy atmosphere to make it really agreeable; also Jay Chou is NO Jet Li. “Treasure Hunter” has a very uneven direction; some parts felt like it wanted to take its premise to a darker, more serious tone but then it injects some forced bits of sentimentality and humor and the film becomes a little boring and lacks consistency. The film makes an almost zero effort to convince and leaves many things unaddressed. The “Eagle in the Desert” thing appeared interesting enough, but the script failed to engage the viewer by presenting its plot mechanics exactly what they are, manufactured and quite frankly felt a little too contrived.
The film’s main aces were revealed early on in the film. The Eagle subplot is built on several flashbacks to develop its credibility; and once it did, it was left hanging out going nowhere. The script by Ivy Chu may be simple but it had the proper elements to tell an engaging story; the thing is, the film fumbles the opportunity to blend the story with the action. Most of the time, the viewer is left with brief explanations as to how everything fell to this and that; but never bothered with emotions and characterization. So the “Eagle”, Qiao Fei and Dao Dao have a history as well as Fei and Lan Ting; yet, I never felt that I was given any reason to give a damn. Relationships are exposed, discussed and then quickly tossed to the side to give way to the action. It tries to emote some past deaths and some key scenes, but never makes each scene compelling. At the end of the day, the film feels very generic. Not necessarily horrible but very generic; the kind of movie you see on HBO for free.
The action scenes were more abundant in the film’s first half that I thought it saved the film from disaster. The set ups for the fights were pretty routine but there were scenes that looked decent and fun to see. Ching Siu-Tung’s action choreography is the stylish, abundant wire fu thing that made him a success in the past, but this time around the action wasn’t anything special. The acting and performances by Jay Chou and beauteous Lin Chi-Ling were fine but I thought they failed to make a connection between them to make their relationship feel more viable.
“Treasure Hunter” is a film that offers zero surprises and is very generic. It is by no means a bad movie but it is the kind that I wouldn’t exactly pay to see, but may enjoy with a group of friends over popcorn or a plateful of barbequed pork ribs. The film does have some nice set designs and decent action, so just turn off your brain when you hear the dull chatter and forced attempts at humor. The film fails to engage because of the lackluster direction that when the characters gasp to emote narrative impact, I didn’t care at all. It may qualify as cheap popcorn fun because of its big-name stars, but besides the beauteous Lin Chi-Ling, I cared not a whit for anyone else.
Conflict, conflict, conflict. At the heart of every great story, there is a conflict. Sometimes, this is a conflict between characters. Sometimes, it’s a conflict between opposing points of view. Still other times the conflict can be internalized, wherein one character struggles against all odds to achieve a sort of personal best or mythic destiny. Whatever shape the conflict comes in, some version of it is necessary to push a plot forward – to move characters … more
In the northwest desert where countless prosperous dynasties have flourish and fall, there is rumor of a treasure of unbelievable riches buried among it. A group of mysterious guardian have been guarding the map to the location of the treasure until a fierce rivalry erupted. A notorious international crime group, The Company hunted down the map keeper and before they managed to secure the map, the keeper passed the map to a young chivalrous man Ciao Fei (Jay Chou).
Ciao Fei was forced to give up the map to save the live of his mentors daughter Lan Ting (Lin Chi Ling),. Teaming up with Hua Ding Bang (a famous archeologist) and Lan Ting they embark on a dangerous journey to recover the map and fight to protect the ancient treasure.