Tokyo Raiders

Review by Walid Habboub

November 20, 2001

Film Review

Strange. That's the best word to describe Tokyo Raiders, a film by Jingle Ma. Ma is one of the rising stars of Asian cinema and his previous high profile work was as cinematographer for some of Jackie Chan's best movies including Drunken Master II (Legend Of Drunken Master in North America) and Police Force. But strange is a good thing. From the techno-latin music to the mind-bogglingly convoluted story, Tokyo Raiders is almost a parody of parodies and is constantly entertaining.

Clearly a graduate of Chan and Yuen Woo-Ping's school of high-energy action mixed with a light-hearted feel in this film, Ma walks the thin line between comedy and parody yet never delivers anything that borders on the silly. While clever, Tokyo Raiders doesn't go for originality but does use normal Hong Kong cinema tools and twists them to present a fun, light, and entertaining movie.

This is Hong Kong popcorn cinema at its best. Legendary actor Tony Leung plays Lin, a private detective on a secret mission. Up and coming superstar Ekin Cheng plays Yung, an interior decorator entrapped in a web of secrets and double-crosses. This is equivalent to pairing Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock, except Leung isn't 137 years old.

Leung, best known for his serious dramatic roles, takes a fresh light-hearted tone in this film as his Lin is played at an almost Austin Powers level of parody without going too far. His "assistants" are 4 bubbly, subservient to him yet completely deadly to others, sexy Kung Fu babes. His gadgets include an overcoat ripe with gas bombs, glue bombs and an often-used cattle prod/stun gun. His character is contrasted by Cheng's Yung; a poor man's Jackie Chan, Yung starts off as the witty yet unfortunate loveable miscreant, and eventually turns into the high-flying, Jet skiing hero.

At the center of it all is Macy, played by Kelly Chen, another up and comer in Hong Kong cinema. Macy is the focus of the film as she holds the key to unlocking the secret to the complicated story that involves the CIA, Japanese spies and the Japanese mafia. Chen has a glowing on-screen presence and if she isn't a star yet, she will be soon. She delivers a very good performance when she needs to.

The film itself is brisk and fun to watch. Though it lags in some places as it takes time to reflect on an emotional center, which is non-existent, the overall pace is quite hectic and is a joy to watch. The action is nothing new or anything that hasn't been done before, but as it is balanced out with a complicated story, a laid back feel, incredible sets and decent action, the film is a definite recommendation.

DVD Review

The North American DVD is quite basic with very few new features. The additions include a 22 minute "making of" special and theatrical trailers. The digital transfer is excellent with very good sound to boot. The subtitles are a beautiful shade of vibrant yellow and strategically placed under the picture when viewed in wide-screen format. The dubbing is neither good enough nor bad enough (or even bad enough in a good way) to point out. The "making of" special contains enough behind the scenes out-takes to be interesting while presenting some strange and oddly entertaining observations about the different actors. The movie itself is a definite buy recommendation and while the disc offers very little in addition, the transfer is of good enough quality to make the disc worth owning.