Tokyo Raiders
(Dong jing gong lüe) (2000)
Directed by Jingle Ma

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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After her husband-to-be fails to show up for their wedding, Macy (Kelly Chen) is accosted by an interior decorator and martial artist, Yung (Ekin Cheng), who claims her groom owed him money for designing his home. Subsequently, as a result of a complex sequence of events, Macy and Yung make their way to Tokyo, where they encounter Lin (Tony Leung), a private investigator who employs a team of beautiful young women, including the sexy Saori (Cecilia Cheung), and learn that Macy's fiancé had been involved in an intricate counterfeiting plot with a deadly mob boss, Takeshi Ito (Hiroshi Abe), with whose wife he had been having an affair.

Jingle Ma's Tokyo Raiders is an intermittently entertaining martial arts film. Unfortunately, it is burdened with so many faults that it is never as fun as it could have been.

The story the director tells is perhaps the movie's least successful element. It is unduly complicated and is overly dependent upon vast amounts of exposition. Over and over again, Ma has one or another person reveal, in excruciating detail, various plot points. Instead of adding to the film's interest, however, these lectures are, without exception, horribly boring.

What is more, there is nothing else in the story that is particularly fascinating. The diverse surprises and shocking developments Ma has included, instead of being clever, seem forced. His characters' troubles, such as Macy's sadness at being abandoned by her fiancé, are painfully maudlin, and their interactions with one another are often incomprehensible, except insofar as these serve to move the narrative along. In fact, the protagonists are rarely more than automatons performing some function or another. When Ma does try to bring out their quirks, however, such as when he shows how Lin only employs beautiful young woman, his efforts consistently come across as contrived.

Even if the viewer does find himself about to slip into unconsciousness as a result of such less than engaging elements, he will, nonetheless, be roused from his stupor by Tokyo Raiders' action sequences, which are frequently enjoyable. Over the course of the movie, Ma depicts Lin battling a group of enemies with an umbrella and a stun gun, Yung using Kung Fu to escape from another gang of thugs who attack him and Macy in the latter's home, Yung taking on a sexy and agile female martial artist, all the characters racing through Tokyo Bay in speedboats, and other sequences besides these.

The appeal such scenes have is, however, somewhat diminished by the director's preference for presenting parts of them, alternately, in slow motion or at high speed, as well as by his fondness for occasionally stopping these sequences and showing a given moment as a still image. While such devices could have been effectively employed to suffuse the movie's action scenes with an enticing stylized feel that might have added to their ability to arouse a sense of excitement in the viewer, they instead give the film's fights a gimmicky quality that significantly detracts from their capacity to thrill.

Although it is hardly an impressive film, Tokyo Raiders is not so bad that it is unwatchable. In fact, in spite of its numerous dull moments, it is often enjoyable.

Review by Keith Allen

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