26 April 2002 | kensmark
Brilliant HK Fusion Film
Jingle Ma, long one of Hong Kong's best cinematographers, shows here that he can create and direct an amazing film when given greater control.
"Tokyo Raiders" is a quintessential HK fusion film, containing plenty of traditional HK elements but making superb use of Japanese and Western elements as well. The soundtrack alone makes it stand out from other HK films of the post-New Wave era, but "Tokyo Raiders" adds great humor, irony, editing, photography, and a broad spectrum of choreography and action (a nod to Jackie Chan-film regular bit actor Allen Chiu-wai Sit as action choreographer here).
The main cast comes off very well, playing characters that veer from serious (or, in some cases, at least near-serious) to absurd -- as the story does the same. "Tokyo Raiders" is really an action-comedy, and strong in both categories, and the cast is a delight.
I usually really hate fancy editing and camera-work for action scenes. If the action is any good, it should be presented cleanly and clearly, so the audience can see it. Anyone can fake action (albeit poorly, in most cases) by messing with the film. That's not impressive. If you have a cast capable of real action and go to the trouble of choreographing real action, then you're only hurting the film by chopping it up with close-ups, slow motion, rapid cuts, and the like.
But in "Tokyo Raiders", Jingle Ma shows that he has the very rare talent of actually enhancing action sequences through careful use of effects. Personally, even if the film weren't so all-around enjoyable, I think this would make it worth seeing all by itself. Most other action directors should take notes.
It's true that many viewers may find the thread of the plot a little hard to follow at times, but this isn't the kind of movie where you have to follow everything to enjoy it. (Few HK action films are, and it's a good thing, too.) And it's true that many viewers will wish that Tony Leung's character's assistants had more screen time. Well, no film is truly perfect, but "Tokyo Raiders" is definitely worth a shot if you like Asian action films and comedies at all.
Just be sure, if you don't speak Mandarin and Japanese, to get a subtitled, not dubbed copy, and not panned-and-scanned (edited to fit a TV screen) if you can help it. As with most foreign films, it makes a world of difference.