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 thematically from Point A to Point B, to force situations to develop organically within the needs of the story. What you get when you don’t really have a pronounced or identifiable conflict is … well … what you get oft times is a film like THE TREASURE HUNTER, the kind of picture that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with but still feels more than a bit shallow in the development department.
For a film less than two hours, TREASURE HUNTER feels surprisingly empty, thin, and lifeless … which it absolutely shouldn’t because there are so many elements up on the screen shared with so many other pictures. It’s one part INDIANA JONES; it’s another part ROMANCING THE STONE; it’s a few parts of the LARA CROFT movies; and it’s a few parts of THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS. In fact, I could probably take the time to come up with dozens of other influences that come into play with a feature like TREASURE HUNTER, and they would all end up being on a list of pretty solidly produced action films. They’d be summer blockbuster. They’d be secret surprise sleeper films. They’d be anything and everything you could want in a cookie-cutter slam-bang adventure.
What’s it missing? Just about everything else needed to make it all mix together successfully.
The story feels culled together somewhat from several scripts, and, as best as I could mash it out, a disgraced archaeologist’s daughter (played by the wholesome looking Lan Ting) seeks to defend her father’s lost legacy. When it’s clear that she knows more than she lets on, the men involved in her father’s disappearance kidnap her and speed her off to the desert in search of … what else … treasure! However, these deserts are guarded by a kinda/sorta spiritual knight (played with understated toughness – most likely because he was hidden under so many layers of clothing! – by Jay Chou) – complete with the obligatory martial arts. Before you know it, he and she join forces in race against the villains to uncover the secret treasure and … well, I think you get the point.
However, the film’s central plot hinges on a series of flashbacks that detail the secret history that links these assorted characters together into a single film, and, once we know all that there is to know, it’s just not all that interesting. There’s a hook here … a bit of a surprise there … but, in the end, nothing pulls the viewer into the action to the point where you genuinely want to CARE about it all. Chou never really musters any significant charisma to carry the weight of an action film on his shoulders, and Ting never really musters any chemistry opposite her leading man. For a film steeped in its own magical, mysterious mythology, TREASURE feels mostly lost of any real treasures, and I found that a bit off-putting. I wanted to like the film far more than what I did, but it never asked me to.
This is not to say TREASURE HUNTER is a bad picture. By any stretch of the imagination, it isn’t. In fact, one could make a strong argument that it’s a very good picture. The production qualities are solid. The performances certainly appear to be on-the-mark for what was written. The action set pieces are interesting and very well staged. It’s just that nothing here really pushes the boundaries of what audiences have come to expect from motion pictures. When you can get a film like this every other weekend at the cineplexes, then something more is needed to elevate one film above the others. If not, then … well … then, like I said, you’ve left with TREASURE HUNTER. It’s something that feels like it was produced by a studio production system – with its heart and soul removed and left possibly on the cutting room floor where it does no one any good.
In the interest of disclosure, I’m happy to say that the folks at FUNimation provided me with an advance copy of the film in order to complete this review.
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 … 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.