Touch, The

Touch, The

Rating: 7/10
Year: 2002
Genre: Adventure
Director: Peter Pau
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Brandon Chang, Ben Chaplin, Richard Roxburgh, Kenneth Tsang

The Touch marks the directorial debut of Peter Pau, the renowned Oscar winning cinematographer of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Although a large portion of the crew is not Chinese and more than 99% of the dialogues is in English, this film is supposed to be a local Hong Kong production. The Hollywood approach is simply a means to attract foreign audience.

The story is very Indiana Jones-alike, it features a typical action adventure plot. Fei (Michelle Yeoh) and his brother Tung (Brandon Chang) are involved in a treasure hunting game with Karl (Richard Roxburgh) and his gang group. The treasure is called Sharira, the essence of Xuan Zuang, the holy monk from the Tang Dynasty. The whole film takes place in China, with most of the exciting chasing scenes happening in Dun Huang, a very beautiful region in the west part of China. If you are a fan of Indiana Jones, you will definitely like this film. It contains all the successful elements of this genre, action, adventure, love and humors are all there, the story is well calculated and very entertaining.

As a cinematographer, Peter Pau has good manipulation of his camera. The mise-en scene is beautifully arranged, as well as the choice of camera angles and lenses, together with the on location setting in Dun Huang and the brilliant composition of background music, the visual and audio performance is excellent. In terms of the cast, Michelle Yeoh demonstrates her acrobatic ability as convincingly as usual, she is like a female version of Jackie Chan now. New actor Brandon Chang is better than expected. Perhaps experienced actors Ben Chaplin and Richard Roxburgh are not glamarous stars, their participations in this film are well appreciated. Although it is a Hong Kong production, the production approach gives you a strong feeling that it is more like a Hollywood film than Hong Kong flick.

The weakness of this film is the logic of the plot. No doubt the screenwriter has already tried their best to make the motivation of the characters and the scenes reasonable, still, there are some obvious problems. For instance, at the climactic fight scene at the end, it is amazing to see how, under the same critical condition, most of the good guys survive, while all of the bad guys are killed by the fire arrows. The depiction of Sharira is also not deep enough, it is hard to feel how precious this treasure is. Moreover, Xuan Zuang was not a Lama from Tibet, it seems little weird for Yeoh to return the Sharira to the Tibet people rather than to the Chinese government. Whether there is any politcal meaning behind is a mystery.

Another big problem is the computer special effect. What I am wondering is, is it because of the budget or what, some of the computer graphics look extremely bad. The artificial fire at the climactic battle is really very "articifial", the quality is similar to what you usually see in a video game. Since the filmmakers have spent so much money and effort on the other visual aspects of the film, it is hard to believe how they could accept the quality of such special effects.

From an interview, Michelle Yeoh once stated that she wanted to make a genuine Chinese film for Western audience. I darenot say she is successful or not, what I think is, The Touch is a product that carries enormous influence of Hollywood adventure genre. No matter the plot, the character development or the logic, everything is molded directly from typical Hollywood blockbusters. If you ask me in which way it shows its "Chineseness", I would probably say it is Michelle Yeoh's character. The depiction of an Asian female lead as hero (for instance, Yeoh saves Chaplin many times in the film, and she rides the horse instead of Chaplin) totally opposes to the predefined image of Asian women in Hollywood films in which they are usually prostitute or inferior characters.

VCD (HK version) - The VCD features a letterboxed widescreen image transfer. Unless you have a big TV, everything will appear very small since only 2/3 of your screen contains the image. English subtitles is not necessary for this film since 99% of the dialogues is in English. A short coverage of the promotion tour in Asia is included on side 2 of the VCD. It consists of short interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Brandon Chang. One side note is, I didn't know Brandom Chang can speak Cantonese well until I saw the interview.

Reviewed by: Kantorates