Tokyo Raiders

For all the inroads made by Jet Li, Jackie Chan, John Woo, and others, even the most popular Hong Kong films remain virtually unknown to American moviegoers, even as their influence seeps into everything from Hollywood action blockbusters to commercials. It's unfortunate, since post-Matrix/Crouching Tiger audiences bored with the usual chase-and-shoot fare would enjoy so many of them—particularly those with the tremendous crossover appeal of Tokyo Raiders. A huge hit in Hong Kong last year, Raiders in many respects delivers the mix of humor, action, and style promised, though not delivered, by the big-screen version of Charlie's Angels, itself largely made up of imported Hong Kong notions. Raiders even boasts an all-female detective squad in the employ of Tony Leung (In The Mood For Love), a China-born, Tokyo-based private eye (or so he claims) prone to toting a cattle prod and a trenchcoat filled with gadgets. Leung inhabits a Tokyo in which high-kicking martial arts and espionage threaten to break out around every corner, especially once jilted bride Kelly Chen (a pop star turned actress) turns up looking for her lost fiancé with kung-fu-fighting interior designer Ekin Cheng in tow. Raiders begins to grind whenever it dwells too much on Chen's fragile emotional state or the specifics of its convoluted plot, but it makes up for the lapses with a light tone and breakneck action sequences. Cinematographer-turned-director Jingle Ma obviously learned a thing or two about the whatever-happens-to-be-lying-around approach to fight scenes while working for Jackie Chan; one of the film's most memorable moments involves the interaction of a high-powered vacuum cleaner, several bottles of booze, and the heads of various thugs. Ma borrows just as memorably from other corners of the Hong Kong action world, having clearly studied both Tsui Hark's almost cubist approach to action and Woo's love of expanding and contracting time. It may seem a little familiar, but Ma keeps coming up with enough memorable moments to render it difficult to care. (Those interested in Tokyo Raiders should seek out the DVD, both for the usual reasons and to avoid the VHS version's credible but still intrusive dubbing.)

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