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The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)

October 16, 2012 2 comments

The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012) provokes me into a slightly introspective mood. I was happily going with the flow right up to the last ten minutes and then found I didn’t like the ending. No, I need to put it more strongly than that. I hate the ending! This is going to make writing this review somewhat complicated because, as a general rule, I avoid spoilers. In this case, we have a series of murders in which the victims are shot but the bullet vanishes, plus a locked-room mystery. Because the solutions are particularly ingenious — indeed, I can’t remember this particular solution to the vanishing bullet phenomenon before — I can’t discuss the detail. Everything that follows this point is somewhat hypothetical, discussing the principles involved so you can understand why I hesitate on whether to recommend this film.

 

Thematically, we’re into the difficult area of deciding what constitutes justice in a Confucian social system with the frame of a formal judgment at both ends of the film. Confucius was absolutely clear on the role of Heaven as a Supreme Being, “He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray.” This means Heaven watches what we do and is ultimately responsible for the administration of justice. If we violate Heaven’s will, it will turn away from us. Indeed, the threat of losing Heaven’s blessing is a deterrent sanction to ensure we retain our integrity, no matter how corrupt those around us. This reinforces the general rule that, if we have faith and are innocent of wrongdoing, we should always be able to rely on Heaven to keep us safe.

Lau Ching Wan at his very best with a sample bullet

 

The film begins with what looks to be a formal invocation of the Way of Heaven to determine who is “right” in an accusation of theft at a munitions factory. Heaven appears to decide the accused is guilty. But, uncharacteristically, the spirit does not leave Earth as it should. Rather it stays and appears responsible for a curse on all those who continue to work in the factory. At first, no-one is inclined to believe in the curse but, when a foreman is shot and there’s absolutely no sign of a bullet, the workforce begins to lose its nerve. When a second death occurs, the body being found in a room with no means for the killer to escape, panic edges closer.

 

The investigative duo assigned to the case is Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse) and Song Donglu (Lau Ching Wan). Both have highly refined powers of observation and impeccable powers of deduction. Guo is also a fast-draw expert and crack shot, while Song is deeply into practical investigation. If he can try a method of killing on himself or others, he will study what happens to the body during the process of coming closer to death. Up to the start of the film, he has always managed to avoid death. Neither are inclined to believe in the supernatural, but they are slow to come up with methods that will cause death and not leave a bullet or a trace of some kind, e.g. if the bullet was made of ice and could somehow be kept cold enough to be carried around and then fired from a gun, would there not be traces of liquid or a stain at the scene? This obviously calls for testing. The “locked-room” puzzle is equally challenging. Our detectives are walking down a corridor, approaching a room when they hear a shot. When they open the door and enter, they find a man dead, but no weapon and absolutely no way anyone could have left the room (there’s no-one hiding behind the door).

Nicholas Tse showing a different way of holding a gun

 

Frankly, this is all beautifully done. The period detail of the 1930s looks and feels right, the CGI of the munitions factory has a generally threatening air, and the level of technology seems to have been faithfully recreated. Indeed, in the more traditional style of Sherlock Holmes, we have everything in the set-up going along smoothly. But the role of Little Lark (Mini Yang) is the first sign of confusion. She’s one of these wheeler-dealer fortune tellers with little birds that are trained to hop out of their cage and pull a little envelope from a pack of envelopes, each containing a prediction about the future. For reasons not immediately clear, she’s threatened and this sparks the previously undeclared love with Guo. This love affair is not really developed and adds nothing to the ending. Moving closer to the end, a phenomenal number of bullets are fired and the munitions factory is blown up. To my mind, this is unnecessary pandering to the lowest common denominator section of the market that believes a good film must always contain shooting and explosions. And so it is we come to the end. I suppose one way of looking at the question Heaven is asked to decide is whether the ends justify the means. Just how far can the wronged go in pursuit of justice? In a utilitarian world, the answer would be a moral thumbs up if there’s a major benefit to the many. But the Confucian Heaven is a slightly more unpredictable quantity. Personally, I think the gun should have jammed or the bullet failed to fire. If we’re going to invoke a supernatural agency, that’s the least we can expect. What we actually see is completely contrary to natural law and deeply annoying to viewers like me.

 

So what’s my conclusion? Well, I’m not going to condemn The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan just because of the way the final loose ends are tied up. Director Chi-Leung Law has done a remarkable job in engaging our interest and involving us in this difficult moral debate. I’m prepared to give him great credit. Too often I walk out of a cinema feeling unmoved. This film succeeded in making me angry which is a sign of its quality. Lau Ching Wan is wonderful to watch as the more brainy detective — a far better performance than in Mad Detective — and although some of the villains are stereotypical and cardboardy, there’s a high level of commitment from a good all-round cast. Had it not been for the end, I would have been hailing this as one of the best films out of Hong Kong this year so, if for no other reason, you should go and see it. You never know, you might like the ending!

 

Other films by Lau Ching Wan:
The Great Magician or Daai mo seut si (2011)
Life Without Principle or Dyut meng gam (2011)
Mad Detective or San taam (2007)
Overheard or Sit yan fung wan (2009)
Overheard 2 or Sit yan fung wan 2 (2011)

 

Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan (2008)
Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)
Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)
The Viral Factor or Jik zin (2012)

 

Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)

February 3, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s always interesting to see how cinematic styles are transferred from one film-making culture to another. Over the last few years, we’ve seen Hollywood experimenting with the transfer of comics and graphic novels to the big screen. Perhaps the most interesting of these was Sin City (2005) which substantially reproduced Frank Miller’s story about Basin City by adopting the graphic novel as the shooting script, setting the camera angles, framing and colouration. This was the ultimate homage to one man’s artistic point of view as against the more usual film versions of comic-book heroes which have been essentially cinematic, so epic rather than the smaller scale detail that derives from artwork. A kind of halfway house emerged in Zach Snyder’s original Sucker Punch in which gothic comic books/graphic novels meet electronic gaming tropes in a fascinating mashup of styles, but this may not set a trend given the smaller than expected profit generated by Kick Ass (2010). The problem given the limitless opportunities provided by CGI technology is to provide a coherent style that’s consistent with the needs of the narrative. It’s pointless to decorate the screen with all kinds of images unless they are positively advancing the story. Simply watching beautifully rendered images grows boring quite quickly.

Aaron Kwok blessed with a big sword

 

All of which brings me to Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009) which is an adaptation of Fung wan which translates as Wind and Cloud, a comic book series created by Wing-Shing Ma and Siu Kit in Hong Kong. Since the series first appeared in 1989, it has been adapted as a film, The Storm Riders (1998) and as a television series in Taiwan. This second film deals with the story arc of an invasion of China by the Japanese led by Lord Godless (Simon Yam) and his son Heart (Nicholas Tse). This is a simple story. The Japanese capture the Chinese Emperor (Patrick Tam) and coerce him into taking them to the Dragon Tomb where they hope to recover the Dragon Bones representing the root of China. Once they are broken, China is broken. When the Japanese first appear, we are shown that Lord Godless is more or less invincible and he drives off our two heros, Cloud (Aaron Kwok) and Wind (Ekin Cheng). To beat the invaders, Cloud and Wind have to acquire new skills. Wind is taken down the “evil” path by appropriately named Lord Wicked (Tak-Bun Wong) who actually reformed himself by cutting off both his arms so he could do evil no more (a bit drastic but effective). Cloud learns righteous techniques from Nameless (Kenny Ho). The idea is that, if our two heroes can combine the good and evil techniques into a single attack, they will beat Lord Godless. With him out of the way, the ordinary Chinese warriors will be able to throw out the invaders. The problem in this great plan is that it may be possible to bring these two warriors together in the defence of China but, if they are successful, how will Wind be turned back from his evil path?

Ekin Cheng turning pale with evil

 

It all starts so well. The directors Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang come up with some really cool cinematography with the help of Decha Srimantra. Between them, they put all the Hollywood tricks on display with angled shots, framed shots with black and white images against coloured backgrounds and vice versa, slow motion, freeze-frames, and so on. It is, in every sense, a visual feast with a nicely gothic feel to the initial confrontation between our heroes and Lord Godless as he’s about to torture all the Chinese exponents who’ve been laid low by poison. Better still, the story starts moving along like a juggernaut as our heroes retreat to regroup and the “evil” Japanese move forward to eliminate the opposition. Indeed, everything is roses in the directorial garden until we come to the defeat of Lord Godless. At this point, the brakes are applied and our unstoppable force grinds to a halt.

 

What has been a classic example of economical storytelling with an interesting visual style becomes a hack, semi-mystical confrontation between good and evil. All the CGI effects suddenly acquire the subtlety of stone axes as back clouds boil off Cloud and bold light flickers around Wind. Their respective love interests try to keep them apart which is not a great success. It’s all eventually resolved, as these things must if people are to be allowed to leave the cinema before their bladders burst, but all momentum is lost and boredom sets in. Frankly, I can’t see any redeeming feature for the last third of this film which is a shame. Perhaps you can arrange to watch only the first part which has more than enough merit to justify your time.

Simon Yam impressive as the invader

 

So there you have it. Storm Warriors or Fung wan II stays reasonably faithful to the comic storyline which will keep the fans happy. The fighting is the usual fantasy-based CGI extravaganza where one hero waves a sword suggestively and hacks chunks off a stone cliff fifty yards away, taking down all enemy warriors that happen to be in the way. It’s all good clean fun at the beginning, but there’s little or no attempt to establish any real characters for us to identify with. The people on the screen do stuff, have stuff happen to them, and then it ends without us caring a great deal about those who live or die. So if you enjoy spectacle, there’s plenty of that. If you want a plot with three-dimensional characters, look elsewhere.

 

Other films directed by Danny or Oxide Pang:
Forest of Death or Sum yeun (2007)
Sleepwalker or Meng you (2011)

 

Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan (2008)
The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)

The Viral Factor or Jik zin (2012)

January 26, 2012 2 comments

Well, I happily sat down to watch this during the Chinese Lunar New Year so, in the necessary spirit of the times, The Viral Factor or Jik zin (2012) was a firecracker of a film. For those of you not familiar with the science behind firecrackers, you should know the manufacturers take a cardboard tube and tightly pack it with gunpowder to ensure the whole thing explodes with the maximum violence and noise. This is not the same as fireworks which are designed to propel very pretty coloured lights into the sky so we can all oooh and aaah in delight.

 

So, if you want to see a film with an amazing number of bullets, RPGs and fists flying while cars chase, helicopters hover and container ships float, this is the film for you because, as the saying goes, this film has all that stuff in spades. The only thing it lacks is a coherent plot and anything approaching self-discipline on the part of the director. Sadly, once Dante Lam gets the bit between his teeth, an action sequence can just go on and on. Indeed, watching the helicopters feels interminable.

Jay Chou and Elaine Jin enjoying a quiet moment toether

 

What, then, should the plot be? It can be summed up in a single sentence. A police officer and his brother take on criminals who want to make a fortune out of selling the vaccine after releasing a new smallpox virus. What do we actually have? Well, dog’s breakfast sums it up. We start off in the Lebanon where a team from the International Security Affairs is to escort a captured rogue scientist to a safe location. Frankly, I had no idea who anyone is nor who I should be watching apart from Jay Chou who’s Jon Wan Fei, one of the grunts. There’s a major police operation but, despite everyone’s best efforts, the scientist is taken away and all the team seems to be killed apart from Jay Chou. Fortunately, he’s only been shot in the head so it’s not a serious injury. Now comes the ultimate cliché. The best surgeons available dare not operate to remove the bullet. It’s touching the thingamagummy in his brain and, if it shifts, he’s a gonner. But fear not, Jay Chou fans, he can walk around for about two weeks but then will spontaneously drop dead. So, minutes after being given the good news, he’s on a plane back home. Except, I may have been wrong about everyone else in the team dying. Perhaps the one that shot Jay Chou in the head was a renegade ISA agent. I’ll come back to that. As a final thought, with RPGs blowing up vehicles and bullets spraying indiscriminately, how does the mastermind ensure his scientist is uninjured? Particularly if the mastermind is one of those guarding him. Grenades and bullets are not discriminating.

Nicholas Tse showing his star firepower

 

Passing quickly on, the emotional hooks have to be planted. We’ve had the dream sequence to start off the film and now Jon’s mother (Elaine Jin) tells him he has a long-lost brother in Malaysia. So, seconds later he’s in another plane — look out for the product placement for the airline but see the adverse message. The plane is inadequately pressurised and the high altitude is pressing the bullet into his thingamagummy. So a friendly doctor (Lin Peng) walks onto the flight-deck (no fear of terrorists on this airline) and they fly a bit lower. See, it’s a caring airline. Tony Fernandez can relax. So by coincidence, this doctor is one of the few people in the world who can manipulate the virus and manufacture the vaccine. From this you will understand the original rogue scientist was killed trying to escape his captors. So the mastermind sends Jon’s brother to kidnap the doctor. You see how the plot just meshes together into one of the most credible ever written. Yes, it’s the good and bad brother tag teaming as Nicholas Tse kidnaps both doctor and head-case at gun point. Not surprisingly, the brothers don’t recognise each other after twenty and more years so they fight and Jay Chou engineers their escape.

Lin Peng and Nicholas Tse

 

It’s at this point we see the pattern emerge. Jay Chou will be battered around the head with fists, metal bars and any other weapons to hand. He will be in car crashes and fall from heights on to his head but the bullet will not move. He will shake himself, perhaps manage a token stagger, maybe even swallow a quick pill, and then run, jump and fight some more. Nicholas Tse proves equally bulletproof (although towards the end, both brothers do put on some kevlar which soaks up everything fired at them apart from a few token scratches on the shoulders and arms). No sense in them taking unnecessary risks. In due course, the brothers are formally introduced and there’s the missing dad (Kai Chi Liu) and cute daughter. We now have all the elements to mix and match hostages, and for the big emotional ending when we get to see the meaning of the original dream. It’s intended as a real tearjerker. Add in Andy On, Carl Ng (I gave up caring which one was the renegade ISA agent — suffice it to say it doesn’t matter) and Anthony Sandstrom as an international gunrunner, and you have a high-profile international cast to widen the distribution potential for what has been an expensive production. Some of the dialogue is shot in English and some in Malay to run alongside the Cantonese. It’s hilariously ironic the Cantonese need subtitles in a film made by one of their own.

The real star of the film — the virus

 

On paper, this was a great film. Although I’m mocking the lack of plot, both Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse come out of it quite well. They are not required to show a great emotional range but they smile and snarl on command, and both look good as action heroes. Taken individually, the action scenes are of a high standard. They do go on too long but they look good. Kuala Lumpur also looks good and much less stagey than in other films (only a brief glimpse of the Petronas Tower). If all this had been put in aid of a coherent plot, it would have been a fabulous way of spending the Lunar New Year. As it was, The Viral Factor or Jik zin was like watching a bomb explode and leave a smoking crater.

 

Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan (2008)
The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)
Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)

 

The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan or 证人 (2008)

The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan or 证人 shows Hong Kong at its best and worst. It’s directed and jointly written by Dante Lam, the other scriptwriting credit going to Ng Wai Ling. At its heart, there’s a simple story of a serious criminal who orders the kidnap of the prosecuting lawyer’s daughter and instructs her to destroy the DNA evidence that would lead to his conviction. Needless to say, this whole plot depends on the lawyer not disclosing the kidnap and being willing to go to jail for obstructing justice — a fate that would separate her from her daughter in any event.

 

Well, always start with a bang, so they say, and this film is no exception. There’s a police raid planned by Sergeant Tong Fei (Nicholas Tse) to arrest Cheung, a major criminal wanted for a number of crimes including robbery and murder. The team divides into three and each group is supposed to co-ordinate their entry into the premises to capture the target. Unfortunately Michael (Derek Kwok Jing-Hung), leading one of the teams is late in breaking through a door and there’s a shooting with Sun (Liu Kai-Chi) narrowly escaping serious injury. Nevertheless, they capture Cheung who’s almost immediately rescued from police custody. Tong and Sun take off in pursuit. There’s a bad crash at a traffic junction, disabling all three vehicles involved. The criminals see another vehicle parked by the kerb. It belongs to a prosecuting lawyer, Ann / Gao Min (Zhang Jingchu) who’s standing beside it arguing with her estranged husband on her mobile phone. With Ann knocked to the ground, her car is driven away. Tong emerges from the wreckage of his vehicle and starts shooting. The fusillade of shots brings this second getaway car crashing to a halt. When the boot is opened, Tong discovers he has accidentally shot a little girl. The criminals found her on the back seat when they took the car and stuffed her inside the boot as they drove away. Cheung is in a coma. He’s rearrested but, after three months, he’s fit to be tried.

Nicholas Tse and Liu Kai-Chi on the trial of the kidnapper

 

We now enter the parallel dimension of coincidence. The prosecuting lawyer was the one standing by the kerb as Cheung took her car. The decision of the Hong Kong prosecuting authorities to allow her to continue in the case is therefore bizzare. Prosecutors must be seen to be dispassionate, yet she has every reason to manufacture evidence to ensure the conviction of the man indirectly responsible for the death of her daughter. At one level this is a wholly unnecessary complication. A plot to kidnap the child of a prosecutor would stand just as well with someone unconnected with the case. Ah, but the scriptwriters have a darker game to play. Our hero, Sergeant Tong, never formally returned to work, spending the three months trying to come to terms with his guilt. One of the ways in which he has passed the time is in befriending the dead girl’s sister, Ling (Wong Suet-yin). Indeed, Tong is at the school watching over her (he’s not the titular beast stalker, you understand) when the kidnap occurs. He’s knocked unconscious and the kidnapper, Hung Jing (Nick Cheung Ka-Fai) escapes. Now Tong has the emotional burden of having killed one daughter and failed to protect the other.

Zhang Jingchu as Ann deciding how loyal she is as a prosecutor

 

Although he has not been the best of squad leaders, Tong has retained the loyalty of those in the team. Even Michael (his cousin) who messed up, forgives him and they all agree to help him find the girl without formally alerting the police about the kidnapping. We therefore have the mother who’s pressured to taint the DNA evidence that will convict the villain. Then there’s the kidnapper. He’s losing his sight and trying to look after his wife Li (Miao Pu) who’s been injured. She’s incapable of speech, bedridden, and wholly dependent on Hung Jing to care for her. Tong and Sun, his main man who was injured in the original chase and now carrying a permanent leg injury, are now on the job. With Michael’s help to tap Ann’s mobile phone, they identify the city block where the girl is probably hidden. It’s now reached an interesting point.

 

This is a story about guilt and how you deal with it. Here’s a mother who would never have lost her first daughter if she had not stopped the car to argue with her husband on the phone. Although the policeman “innocently” pulled the trigger, she’s the “but for” cause of her daughter’s death. She cannot sleep at nights, blaming herself. Here’s a cop who feels so guilty at the mess he presided over, it’s as much as he can do to stop himself from committing suicide. Amazingly, there’s no internal investigation into this catastrophic sequence of events. No-one seems to want to consider whether Tong should be tried for manslaughter or suffer any kind of penalty. He’s just left on his own for three months.

Nick Cheung and Nicholas Tse fight for the gun

 

As to the kidnapper, Hung Jing, he’s also carrying a burden of guilt. In another completely unnecessary backstory, the scriptwriters decided that, if the other main characters are feeling guilty, Hung Jing should not be excused. I find this deeply annoying. In my own culture, this is everegging the pudding. It’s adding a contrivance in the form of a coincidence. Simply having him as a professional killer dragooned into a kidnapping would have been sufficient. Weighting him down with all this backstory is trying too hard to improve on an interconnected plot that’s already overly complex.

Dennis Kwok proving surprising loyal in helping out his cousin

 

As to the ending, the chase and fight goes on too long and, although the existing relationship between the policeman and the kidnapped girl does add a element, enabling him to encourage her and get results, it all drags with an overflow of self-pity from the two adult men involved. In the worst sense, it’s all terribly melodramatic and hammy.

 

So The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan or 证人 is good in part and, if you are inclined to take a benign view of an average Hong Kong thriller, it’s a not unenjoyable way of passing almost two hours.

 

For the record, Nick Cheung won the Best Actor in the Golden Horse Awards 2009 and the 15th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards and the 28th Hong King Film Awards. Liu Kai-Chi won the Best Supporting Actor in the 28th Hong King Film Awards.

 

Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)
Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)

Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)

For some reason, the summer season is associated with big crowd-pleasing blockbusters. When the sun is beating down and there are so many distractions outdoors, the studios release the films they believe will pull the crowds. In many cases, their choices are really bad. It can just be that the particular script-writing committee and associated focus groups were particularly poorly co-ordinated so the plot emerges in a chaotic state. More often, it’s obvious the cast were only interested in taking the money and finishing as quickly as possible. Whatever the reason, the summer is often the graveyard of the studios’ hopes and expectations.

Nicholas Tse and Nick Cheung finding humour in the moment

 

This year from Hollywood has been no exception. There have been some real stinkers. Looking in the other directions, there have been some good films from Europe and one or two excellent offerings from Hong Kong and China. Well, the mould has now been broken with the arrival of Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan from the remarkably prolific Jing Wong. This just goes to show that, whatever Hollywood can do, Hong Kong can beat if it puts its mind to it.

Huang Yi and Charlene Choi relegated to eye candy roles

 

Welcome to the wacky world of wuxia comedy. When this fires on all cylinders not only is the fighting superb, but the laughs flow as well. Treasure Inn is a classic example of how not to do it. I suppose the starting points for this pastiche were Dragon Inn or Long men kezhan (1967) and Dragon Inn or Sun lung moon hak chan (1992) which are wonderful straight fighting films set in a remote desert inn. So, as a modern director, you pick your targets carefully. This will have the Inn act as a haunt for criminals who auction off stolen goods to the highest bidders, making it a lure to all the best thieves who want the top return on their skills. In this instance, it’s all about a jade life-sized Goddess of Mercy. A gang of raiders hire a criminal mastermind to steal it for them and pass it on at the Inn. Standing in their way is an elite group of police agents led by Captain Iron (Kenny Ho). Also involved are Nicholas Tse and Nick Cheung playing bottom-feeder officers, left to do household chores by their corrupt local officers. When they insert themselves into the investigation, they are accused of being the thieves and then make a break from jail thanks to the efforts of Fire Dragon Girl (Yi Huang) and Water Dragon Girl (Charlene Choi). Needless to say, this pairs off our “heroes” — you can tell this is love at first sight because of the red hearts that burst across the screen when their eyes meet. Yes, some of the humour is that primitive. The other element of romance is between Tong Da Wei as a doctor in love with Ling Long (Liu Yang), the lady who runs the Inn.

Liu Yang floats around showing she's in charge of the Inn

 

Perhaps it’s an age thing but, when I watch a film, I want it to make sense. I can understand why the corrupt local police would want to drive the innocent do-gooders away, but why they would stay in the face of this relentless abuse is unclear. What makes this a problem is that, when the murders and theft of the statue occur, they are fast to insert themselves into the investigation and obviously ambitious to be recruited into Captain Iron’s troop. Later, when accused of being the robbers, we have slapstick torture and then the rescue by the cross-dressing ladies. There’s no attempt at explanation of why one of the ladies should be locked up with our heroes, nor why the three should be sentenced to death without any kind of trial. I suppose we have to have the ladies readily agree to go to the Inn because that’s the way love works in these films. I could go on but you should understand that, except in the broadest of terms, there’s very little logic or consistency of characterisation at work in this film.

Tong Da Wei looking dangerous in a different film

 

I might have forgiven all this and accepted the one or two laugh-out-loud moments as compensation if the fighting had been any good. Sadly, we are into poor cutting to hide the lack of good fighting sequences. You can always tell you’re in trouble when the use of sound as a weapon is so heavily featured with red blades of doom being cast off the guitar strings while a lion’s roar comes back. Even the CGI storm that rages around and eventually destroys the Inn is embarrassingly bad.

 

It’s rare I emerge from the cinema unable to find a single redeeming feature. While accepting that humour often does not cross cultural boundaries, it’s possible this film is aimed at mainland Chinese markets and they will all fall about laughing from start to finish. Certainly, much of the humour is lower common denominator and basic — as in the usual argument about who such suck out the snake venom from one of our hero’s buttocks — so if cultural stereotypes are true, this will make a lot of money. Worse, there’s little passion in any of the three romances to distract us, and the fighting fails to deliver anything entertaining.

 

So even when Treasure Inn is scheduled on terrestrial television, think twice before spending time to watch it.

 

Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan (2008)
The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)

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