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September 24, 2008

Seoul Raiders

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Han Cheng Gong Lue
Jingle Ma - 2005
Arts Alliance America Region 1 DVD

Looking at his filmography, Jingle Ma's best work is as cinematographer for other people. The films Ma has done as a director are more decidedly lightweight, though not without considerable technical skill. At the very least, he should be commended for not jumping on the Crouching Tiger bandwagon, although his previous film, Silver Hawk made it clear that Michelle Yeoh needs more than just her physical prowess to carry a movie. Seoul Raiders is a caper film of not great consequence, but it is enjoyable simply to see a couple of veteran Hong Kong stars having fun.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Shu Qi meet cute as thieves competing to steal a suitcase with counterfeit plates. The two plates are intended to be used by a terrorist organization to flood the U.S. Richie Ren plays a U.S. embassy employee from Hong Kong who tricks Leung, and attempts to sell the plates to a gang leader with international ties, based in Seoul. Leung chases after Ren, accompanied by his gang of leggy beauties, with Shu showing up to get what she believes are her just rewards.

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Seoul Raiders is a relatively stress free caper film, with little suspense or mystery. What the film has going for it are some amusing fight scenes, such as in the opening when Leung and Shu are chased by henchman, and the two toss the valuable silver case between each other while arguing whether they are partners or rivals. In another set piece, Leung and his team chase Ren through the streets of Seoul and into a subway where Leung grabs onto Ren's scarf on the inside of the train, while Ren is holding onto the outside door, inches from being dashed against the tunnel wall. One other scene that elicits chuckles is Leung defeating a hang of thugs by hurling plates at them. Shu Qi mostly laughs, smiles and generally looks cute. If you want to see Shu as an action star, she is used to better advantage in So Close.

Tommy Wai's score seems to have been lifted, with very little alteration, from one of the music themes used by Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill. Jingle Ma may be taking his queues, both musical and visual, from American films. There is the nervous camera, the editing of shots to the beat of the music and again, the seemingly inevitable slo-mo action shots. There's very little in Seoul Raiders that hasn't been seen before. But with Tony Leung having made his mark most significantly with Wong Kar-wai, and Shu Qi graduating to the artistic heights as Hou Hsiao-hsien's muse, a lighthearted romp may have been in order.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 24, 2008 12:23 AM