Title: The Treasure Hunter
Release date: 12th July 2010Certificate: 15
Running time: 102 mins
Director: Yen-ping Chu
Starring: Chiling Lin, Jay Chou, Eric Tsang, Daoming Chen
When Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer) pulled out of The Green Hornet reinvention scheduled for release in 2011, many were left baffled by director Michael Gondry’s decision to cast Jay Chou, gargantuan pop star, as Kato; stepping into the shoes movie phenomenon Bruce Lee left behind. With Seth Rogen already mysteriously cast as The Hornet (he did write the screenplay) anticipation for its release is slightly muted. The Treasure Hunter, starring Chou and available to buy this month, provides the perfect opportunity to assess his acting credentials in a film billed as ‘Indiana Jones meets The Mummy’…
Lan Ting (Red Cliff’s Chiling Lin), an adventure novelist living in the City, agrees to meet up with her estranged father; the man she hasn’t forgiven for leaving home so he could explore ancient ruins instead of raising a family. A collision on route ensures she never sees her father, awakening days later in a desert, held hostage, used as a bargaining tool for an ancient map that will lead her captors to a secret tomb filled with treasures.
Met instead by Ting’s childhood friend Qiaofei (Chou), with news of her father’s mysterious demise and the map her enemies have been seeking, she is attacked, along with the others, by more furtive foes hell-bent on retrieving the map and killing all those that have seen it. Narrowly escaping, the custodians and convicts must join forces and overcome their differences if they are to banish the ghosts of old and ultimately prevail…
Director Yen-ping Chu must have thought he had potential gold in his hands by pairing two of Taiwan’s hottest properties together for this supposedly exhilarating desert romp. Sadly, although Jay Chou and Chiling Lin are both attractive to look at and handle their roles more than adequately, they’re let down by a nonsensical story in which too many characters spend the duration of the film doing very little. It wouldn’t be so bad if the twosome had some kind of chemistry going on, but their relationship is more wooden than Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s in Attack of the Clones.
Chou spends the majority of the movie with the same glum facial expression, no matter what emotion he’s supposed to be conveying, whilst Lan Ting seems almost worried to get too close to her co-star in case she upsets his adoring teenage fan base. Fortunately, seeing as the film is a cross between Indiana Jones and The Mummy, at least the viewer will be rewarded with tremendous action and adventure, right?
Well, not quite. Whilst the CGI is easy on the eye, obvious wire-work ruins the few fight scenes we are forced to endure. Chou’s performance suffers heavily with this, the punches he throws are tamer than those witnessed on a school playground; Bruce Lee has nothing to fear whatsoever. Admittedly, the duel between Qiaofei and a masked Dao Dao is briefly entertaining, but Chu’s decision to have a young boy play guitar during it is simply baffling.
Considering its running time, there are surprisingly few action scenes. The Sandstorm Legion offer some menace but they also provide the film with its first of many illogicalities; can horses really outrun a car and a motorcycle? The finale, located in the lost tomb, finally raises some interest, involving a zombie and some white-haired ghosts, but it suffers from similar flaws; the scenes just aren’t long enough and lack any kind of tension. All too often characters are introduced to offer brief conflict; the Eagle of the Desert is much talked about during the opening scenes, but the duel between him and Qiaofei is lost in a sandstorm of sentimentality.
Lan Ting’s character infuriates simply because the death of her father has little impact on her persona. She basically grieves for two minutes, accepts it and moves on. Even when they are confronted by his apparent murderer, more of a mummy than a man, she’s primarily concerned about hitting the deadline for her next novel, or whether Qiaofei still loves her after all these years. As for the murderous mummy, another villain popping up to satisfy the audiences need for Chou to play tough, the Andrex puppy would probably offer more resistance.
Director Yen-ping Chu never commits to a particular tone, somehow managing to steal the worst parts from films of similar ilk, molding them into a bland, pointless experience. The amount of money spent to achieve this is staggeringly obvious; some of the visuals are a feast for the eyes. But while he handles the visual aspect of the film with style, wire-work aside, he is rather careless with the amount of annoying, and frustratingly redundant performances – Pork Rib (Eric Tsang) is supposedly the clown of the piece, but he’s so over the top it hurts, and others drift in and out offering very little to a plot lacking in mystery, suspense or drama.
Playing tribute to Indiana Jones and The Mummy, The Treasure Hunter manages to plunder all of the worst bits from both to create a mess of a movie. Devoid of originality, plot and action, only die-hard Jay Chou fans will find anything here worth to treasure.