Friday, March 29, 2013

A quirky rom-com bookended by spy action

Treasure Hunt (1994)
Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Chien-lien Wu, Gordon Liu, Philip Kwok, Michael Wong, and Roy Chiao
Director: Jeffrey Lau
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A CIA agent (Yun Fat) is sent covertly to China to steal a mysterious device (a Chinese "national treasure") that is being hidden by the government at a monastery. Once there, he discovers the device is actually a lonely young woman (Wu) with extraordinary psychic powers. His mission is quickly threatened by his growing love for her and by double-agents within the CIA

."Treasure Hunt" is an unevenly paced romantic comedy crossed with a spy-themed action thriller. It starts and ends with gun-play and violence, but the middle section weaves its way through gags revolving around Chinese vs. American culture and romantic scenes that range from sappy to hilariously cute, as CIA agent Chang Ching rediscovers and land and traditions of his ancestors and doubts about his loyalties start to creep into his mind.

While I I think shaving about 10 minutes off the middle of the film with some careful trimming would have done all manner of good, this is the sort of film that shows why Yun Fat has been called China's Cary Grant by a number of critics. He's handsome and a talented, versatile actor who seems at home in just about any genre of picture he is called upon to appear in--and even in a picture that shifts gears and genres as it unfolds, he is perfect. He is charming, charismatic and likable, so it's perfectly believable that a young woman would fall quickly in love with him... but he can also come across as absolutely cold and ruthless as he does in the film's final scenes. And he is equally convincing as charmer or killer--and he never loses the viewer's affinity for his character.

In "Treasure Hunt," Yun Fat also benefits from the strong cast of co-stars and supporting actors he's working with here. Co-star Chien-lien Wu doesn't have much to do for much of the film except to seem demure, but once her character gets a little more active, she shines equally bright as Yun Fat and the pair of them make a quite-literally magical romantic chase scene in the film's too-long middle section a lot of fun.

I think ultimately, "Treasure Hunt" falls into the 'Chick Flick' category, but I think it's a Chick Flick that guys will be able to enjoy as well.

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