Director: Jingle Ma
Writer: Chan Suk-yin, Chong Man-keung
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Ekin Cheng, Kelly Chen Wai Lam, Cecilia Cheung, Toru Nakamura, Ken Abe, Maiyu Ozawa, Kumiko Endo, Sirakawa Minani
Running Time: 101 min.
The problem with movies in the “mindless fun” category is that too many of them forget the “fun” part. Happily, Tokyo Raiders does not suffer from this problem and is readily available in unbutchered form on DVD in North America courtesy of Columbia TriStar. Comparable to the cult favorite Steve Wang/Mark Dacascos film Drive in terms of sheer, kinetic joy, Tokyo Raiders is a great movie to show to anyone who thinks that action-packed Hong Kong cinema is the exclusive domain of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. It’ll put a big, goofy grin on the face of just about anybody with a pulse.
Tony Leung Chiu Wai (the Hard Boiled one, not the Dragon Inn one) takes a refreshing break from his usual serious roles to play a detective who wears a jacket full of neat toys and swings a mean umbrella. The oft-ridiculed Ekin Cheng (not the worst actor I’ve ever seen, but there is definitely room for improvement) is a roguish, ass-kicking interior decorator, and Kelly Chen is Macy, the lead female who spends lots of time unconscious, drunk, drugged, or just plain helpless. Cecilia Cheung and an assortment of Japanese cuties show up in somewhat insignificant supporting roles, making the film seem like a strutting peacock saying “damn I look good” while showing off its glamorous feathers. People who (rightly) say that aesthetically gifted individuals (especially women) are pretty much the only ones who stand a chance of succeeding in show business regardless of their talent (or lack thereof) will find plenty of ammunition here. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you. I can picture guys jerking off to that one shot of Cecilia swinging those black leather-clad legs of hers over the side of the car without too much difficulty…not because I WANT to, but because the camera makes such a big deal of it.
The thin but serviceable plot about a missing Japanese gang lord (Macy’s fiance) and his affair with the wife of his partner in crime is punctuated by a spiffy “salsa techno” soundtrack (Mom loved it) and plenty of action sequences; outstanding amongst these is the golf club fight (it’s about time that stupid game started earning its keep) and car carrier scene near the middle of the film. I didn’t much like the “double take” editing trick that kind of makes it look like the DVD is skipping (I have had more defective Hong Kong DVDs than I have had bowel movements), but that’s just part of the movie’s overall style. Patches of implausibility, like some very conveniently-placed exploding barrels during the motorboat chase, only add to the mindless fun factor.
Note that Cantonese and Japanese are both spoken in the film and if you can’t tell the difference just by listening, you’ll have to figure out who’s speaking what within the context of the story… which should not be the least bit difficult, but, you know… there ARE stupid people out there. THEY can listen to the English dubbed track (which I haven’t heard, for reasons which, I hope, are obvious).
Numskull’s Rating: 8/10
Ten minutes into the film I was tempted to stop the DVD player and look for reruns of “Battle of the Planets” on the Cartoon Network. I wasn’t sure what to expect with “Tokyo Raiders”, but I was not encouraged by the sight of Tony Leung beating the hell out of a gang of thugs with an umbrella, trick cigars, and a cattle prod. It wasn’t clear if I was watching a straight spy film ala Bond or an “Austin Powers”-like spoof. Mercifully, the film quickly switched gears and I ended up enjoying it immensely. I was pleasantly surprised by “Tokyo Raiders”, a stylish, fast-paced thriller with an absolutely gorgeous cast and plenty of humor.
The film has a great contemporary look and reminded me a bit of “Gen-X Cops”. Every character in the film is sickeningly stylish. The fight scenes are well choreographed with some interesting editing and camera angles, including a very plausible fight early in the film involving a vacuum cleaner and liquor bottles. I think I was most surprised by the script which manages to effectively blend humor, action, and drama. The only really irritating thing about “Tokyo Raiders” is the techno heavy soundtrack. Not that techno is bad, but the techno in this movie sounds like the background music during the fight scenes in the old Super Nintendo “Street Fighter” game.
I’ve got to admit, I did feel a bit of kinship with some of the characters in the film. Soon after Tony Leung does his silly Bond thing, Kelly Chan’s character Macy is left standing at the alter in the Silver Bells Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, THE VERY SAME CHAPEL I WAS MARRIED IN! I thought this was a very nice touch by director Jingle Ma and gave me yet one more reason to recommend “Tokyo Raiders”.
Alexander’s Rating: 7.5/10