Tokyo Raiders (東京攻略)

tokyo raiders

About eight minutes into the movie, Tony Leung’s character, Lam, breaks away from the bad guys. A fevered and funny chase through some back alleys of Tokyo leads to his concrete silo of a house, where there’s more martial arts and shattering glass. Finally, he slips behind a large bulletproof window, gives a cheeky wave and wink to his adversaries, and rappels a hundred feet or so to his escape.

The scene captures a lot of things, foremost Leung’s devilish charm and his ability to outact the thinnest of scripts. He spends most of the movie being the perfect cad, and a private eye when it suits. It’s safe to say that this Chinese New Year comedy succeeds, in the broadest terms, because he willingly embraces all the wiles of his character and the nonsensical plot.

Which is good because you have to dig deep to find a story here. It’s vaguely about a jilted bride, Macy (Kelly Chen), who jets off to Tokyo in search of her fiancé (Nakamura Toru) and is followed by Yung (Ekin), an interior designer hellbent on getting paid. They run into Lam and some sharply dressed gang members – or maybe it is the other way around, and the movie quickly descends into a whirlwind of secrets and lies. There are more double crosses than a World War II spy ring and none as intriguing.

Tokyo Raiders ends up being a movie in which the action pauses for the story, with extended fight sequences piled on top of one another and only occasionally stopping to satisfy basic narrative requirements. Fans of storytelling might object, but I rather liked the wall-to-wall action. The stunts and choreography are less graceful and clever than the movie make them out to be, but dammit, Tony Leung can wield a taser and jump over moving cars like a pro.

Cheng can’t really compete with Leung’s acrobatics or his roguish appeal, or anything else, but he doesn’t detract from the picture. The few good lines he does have he throws with precision. It’s Chen who’s the most misused here. Macy serves as an interpreter when the script demands, but she is really just a beautiful prop for everyone else’s double dealing. Her damsel in distress always needs saving, and at one point, Yung actually drags her drugged body around while fending off the baddies and climbing down the stairs. Even Lam’s attractive team of young female assistants, which includes Cecilia Cheung, has more to do. Additional characterization would complicate the plot though, and we don’t want that.

Released: 2000
Prod: David Chan 陳錫康; Sasaki Kyo 佐々木享; Patricia Chong 莊麗真
Dir: Jingle Ma 馬楚成
Writer: Susan Chan 陳淑賢; Felix Chong 莊文強
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Ekin Cheng 鄭伊健; Kelly Chen 陳慧琳; Cecilia Cheung 張柏芝; Nakamura Toru 仲村亨; Abe Hiroshi 阿部寬; Pauline Yam 任葆琳; Endo Kumiko 遠藤久美子; Shirakawa Minami 白川南; Moriyama Yuko 森山祐子; Ozawa Maju 小澤真珠
Time: 118 min
Lang: Cantonese, Japanese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014