A fistful of Hong Kong stars get into some engaging hijinx in “Tokyo Raiders.” This year’s clear winner in the Chinese New Year box office sweeps, grossing HK$28 million ($3.5 million) locally, the Golden Harvest production makes up in personality and an overall light, jokey tone what it lacks in sheer action smarts.
Media Asia’s more highly tooled New Year contender, “2000 AD,” with a story also set largely overseas (in Singapore), grossed only half the amount, ending up in third place. “Tokyo Raiders” benefited from bigger stars (Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Ekin Cheng, the latter also in the No. 2 New Year vehicle, “The Duel”) and a sexier campaign. Pic also went straight into the mainland market, on 1,000 screens, to forestall piracy.
For his third film as director, noted d.p. Jingle Ma has learned some lessons from his debut, “Hot War” (1998), a techno-actioner that forgot to fold character into the computerized script. “Raiders” swings in the opposite direction, with male leads Leung and Cheng engaging in plenty of verbal cross-play, Canto-thrush Kelly Chen providing the third side of the (non-romantic) triangle, and the film, entirely shot in Japan, taking on an almost doculike look, with antsy editing, swishing camerawork and synch sound.
Plot has interior designer Yung (Cheng) accompanying Macy (Chen) to Tokyo to track down her Japanese fiance, Takahashi (Toru Nakamura), who left her at the altar in Las Vegas. They’re soon helped by Lam (Leung), a Tokyo-based Chinese p.i., who maintains a bevy of female assistants, including Saori (hot new star Cecilia Cheung, in a relatively small role). Nobody is who he or she appears to be, and yakuza Ito (Hiroshi Abe) is on all their tails.
Unlike Gordon Chan’s “2000 AD,” action sequences rely more on novelty settings than f/x or sheer spectacle, with Leung’s easygoing, boyish charm setting the tone and the mystery of who is doing what to whom providing most of the plot interest. Biggest set piece is a speedboat finale through Tokyo’s waterways, which is only average by Hong Kong movie standards.