25 September 2006 | rsoonsa
Predictable Material Provides Very Little Of Value.
Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers utilize their production resources here in a manifest essay to capitalize upon the popularity of the early James Bond films that were so enormously successful during the period that THE GOLDEN BUDDHA was made, even to imitating entire thematic notation from John Barry's scores for the Bond works, but this and techno designing for the principal villain's base of operations are the only like elements, and they blend but mildly and rather dispiritingly into an effort that sorely wants for such essential cinematic requirements as able direction, effective editing, and a well-composed screenplay. A somewhat gossamer plot depicts Paul (Paul Zhang Chung) and his fatuous adventures following an unintended exchange of briefcases with a friend during a flight to Singapore that is delayed due to inclement weather, forcing Paul to spend a night in Bangkok. When Paul attempts to recover his briefcase, he finds that his friend has been murdered and that he himself has come by accident into possession of a small statue of Buddha within which is a set of riddling instructions. He coincidentally meets a brother/sister combination that owns two other similar statues, and the trio determines that if all three coded enclosures will be combined, a treasure of some sort will be found. Unfortunately, The Forces of Evil, in the form of "The Skeleton Gang", covets the Buddhas, and the chase is on with Paul, and comely Jeanette Lin Tsui performing as the sister, being pursued by the Skeleton Gang scoundrels, a rather incompetent group that is handily mastered, in a series of gorgonizing scenes, by Paul's less than impressive and stiffly telescoped karate blows. Patently the most appealing component of the production is based upon its picturesque settings, as action is partially shot in Thailand, including Bangkok International Airport, along with a night club and massage parlour in that city, but most remarkable is a lengthy sequence among verdant ruins of the ancient Siamese capital Ayutthaya. Also noteworthy are the silly and quite bizarre designs adorning the Skeleton Gang's headquarters, a subaqueous establishment overladen with sliding doors, purring elevators, buzzers, chimes, et alia, and all graced with a glut of pastel shades. Director Lo Wei, who also casts himself in a dual role, had been unimpressive at the helm of early Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies, and is so here as well, demonstrating very little talent for pacing or handling of his players, his lack of anything resembling style not aided by erratic editing and continual lapses of logic and continuity. Zhang Chung serves as a bland but amiable hero, to an extreme actually, since he often apparently hasn't a clue as to what might be going on about him. While this is not an offensively poor film, it is nonetheless well below the standard established by Shaw Brothers.