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Original Title:
Han cheng gong le

Hongkong 2005

Genre:
Action, Comedy

Director:
Jingle Ma

Cast:
Tony Leung
Shu Qi
Richie Ren
Meme Tian
Choi Yeo Jin
Cho Soo Hyun
Cho Han Na


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Seoul Raiders

Story: Freelancer and former Chinese agent of the Japanese NSA Lam (Tony Leung) has the assignment to recover a pair of stolen Dollar-plates and hand them over to the american government for a small reward in return. Unfortunately, ambitious but unexperienced thief JJ (Shu Qi) gets in his way, who also wants to be on the receiving end. In the end, Lam can outwit JJ and hands over the Dollar-plates to Chinese-american CIA Agent Owen Lee (Richie Ren). However, Ren cheats Lam and gets away with the plates. His plan is to sell the plates himself for an even greater sum to Korean underground boss Polar Bear. But he didn't reckon with Lam, who with the help of his charming assistants and JJ chases after Owen and the Dollar-plates.

Review: Why the more or less average first part "Tokyo Raiders" had to get a sequel will most likely stay a mystery - but here it is!
After the first minutes have passed we already know that we will get nothing else but trivial Popcorn-cinema. At some points entertaining, but nothing to think about. Actually, it would be fatal to look for a greater meaning (or even a not so great) in this movie, as there is none. This doesn't mean something bad, as long as you have a good time. Sadly, the movie makes you scratch your head several times. That is because it seems that there was no script when one did start shooting the movie. It's more that one did put actionscene after actionscene and refined it by implementing lots of stupid and ridiculous dialogues.

Without a doubt, there are some scenes that can make you smile, but most of the time you just have the feeling that the director didn't know where to go with his film. In fact, this even gets so bad, that there are lots of conclusions you can't comprehend, asking yourself: who, what, where, when and most of all why!? If there really was something like a script for "Seoul Raiders" then it must have been cut into pieces so that it could be thrown at the poor audience in form of random puzzle parts. Don't get me wrong, it's not that the story is that complicated. On the contrary, it is more like a 80s/90s plot, the kind of we hoped to have surpassed for a long time already. You know Dollar-plates and stuff... But the film even lacks the inner cohesion of the story.

Enough about the story. Of course there are lots of brawls again and they aren't executed that bad. Yet they don't have the originality of the prequel. This is the more sad as "Seoul Raiders", as it was already the case with the first part, is supposed to work because of its action scenes and is also composed merely of them.
Moreover, it's also irritating that every fight has no meaning at all, a win serving no purpose, as there is no goal to achieve. If the audience isn't affected by the events then why would you need fights in a movie? This is another thing the producers could have thought about, especially since they didn't do so with anything else.
Visually, the movie is quite solid, but there is no tension to be found here and even the happy-life mood the film is supposed to convey feels more contrived than anything else.

As it had to be expected the lack of a story also leads to the problem that the intentions of the different characters stay in the dark. Especially the question why exactly Lam had to recruit his three female assistants will stay with you until the end. Except of looking good (and I have to acknowledge that they do a really good job here) they seem to be of no importance whatsoever. Sometimes they pointlessly stand in the background, they leave, only to return standing around again and to top it all they sometimes even get some silly commentary line. It's the same with Shu Qi. Her performance as JJ is perfunctory and marginal and you can't even blame her as it most likely is the script that gives her nothing to work with.

Fortunately, Tony Leung with his portrayel of the joyful and violent James Bond-like playboy Lam with a sense for black humor, can give the movie some upsides. Even though you can see that he did not have that much fun in the shooting as it was the case in the first part.
Another one who did a good job is Richie Ren who infuses Owen Lee with his own individual charm, although his intentions and true character seem to have been lost somewhere in the script's confusion.
At the end the problem remains that you can't sympathize with any of the characters, because they are just too bland.

Yet, the biggest of all questions is: Why the heck Korea? Not only that there is nothing of a culture shock here, but actually there is nothing of Korea or its culture shown in the movie at all! The movie could have taken place in any town and it wouldn't have made any difference. This is only one of the countless lost opportunities of director Jingle Ma to rise his movie about its complete mediocrity.
What's left is a disappointing sequel or more of a below average action comedy. You just have to wonder how they came up with such a top-class cast...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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