Director: Jingle Ma
Cast: Tony Leung, Richie Ren, Shu Qi, Meme Tian
Seoul Raiders, a sequel to the 2001 Chinese New Year blockbuster Tokyo Raiders, hit the theater in early 2005. Featuring the same director Jingle Ma and lead male Tony Leung Chiu-wai, the movie was quite anticipated but turned out to be less than satisfactory both at the box office and among the critics and audiences.
Seoul Raiders is a very straightforward action adventure combined with some elements of detective thriller. Tony Leung, reprising his role as the shrewd yet careless detective Lam Kwai-yan, is involved in an international criminal case this time. He is tricked by former US embassy staff Owen Lee (Richie Ren) and is accused of stealing two counterfeiting plates. In order to get out of the trouble, Lam has to dig out the truth and so he flies to South Korea and searches for Owen who is reported to be seen there. Soon he discovers that more people are involved and there is a much bigger plot waiting for him to solve… Similar to Tokyo Raiders, the focus of the movie is always the action choreography. The investigation is merely the side dish while most of the scenes are mainly conceived in order to provide an excuse for the characters to engage in series of hand-to-hand combats. As a matter of fact, more than 80 percent of the show is composed of these fight scenes. If you are not that into fighting (especially when the intentions of the fight is quite lame and don't always make much sense), you may be overwhelmed from time to time during the screening.
With a millennium packaging, the structure and ideology of the narrative are actually very 80s. It is no different from any domestic action movies from the 80s when Hong Kong action cinema was enjoying its glorious day. The plot is less than logical and the motives of the characters are also not that convincing. It is all about the action. For instance, Lam is supposed to be a very intelligent detective, but his behaviors are simply too absurd to make you think so. The evil plot of the bad guys is also very funny, in a ridiculous sense. While this kind of movie might succeed easily in the 80s, the tastes of the audience nowadays are obviously no longer the same and therefore, barely a reenactment of such an obsolete filmmaking formula is destined to fail.
Another problem of the movie is that even though it was shot in South Korea, and that the Korean government has been offering enormous support to the production, you just couldn't feel a very strong "Korean feeling" in the movie. Other than using it as a backdrop, the film just fails to bring out the character of the city (the story mainly happens in Seoul). The Korean characters are either police or gangster, and all of them just look totally the same. After seeing the movie, you may wonder whether it would make any difference even if the entire story were moved back to Hong Kong or Tokyo.
Visually speaking, everything is nice but again, there isn't any innovative or spectacular moment that can keep you engaged or surprised. The climactic fight scene in the end is hilarious, but the scale is definitely smaller than expected. Talking about the cast, luckily both Tony Leung and Richie Ren are impressive. They do convincingly prove to the audience that they are capable of doing complicated acrobatic moves. Compared to the two male roles, the two female Shu Qi and Meme Tian are far inferior. Shu Qi's role is simply redundant while the inexperienced new talent Meme Tian exemplifies clearly that the role is too difficult for her to handle.
Seoul Raiders is moderately entertaining and it is no wonder why it was moderately received when it came out in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year. Rumors are saying that director Jingle Ma hoped to further continue the Raiders series. Let's just wish it is not true and let it remains as rumors...
Reviewed by: Kantorates