Seoul Raiders (2005) is the semi-sequel to the, didn't really need a sequel, action comedy, all-star, fluff piece Tokyo Raiders. It is a real New Year film, that being the Chinese Lunar New Year when all the real popcorn, family friendly films get a big push. It is the kind of innocuous fare served up for the masses, nothing too dramatic, lots of flashy action, lots of goofy jokes, the kind of film you enjoy while watching it but instantly forget the moment the credits roll.
Tony Lueng returns as Lam, the jet setting agent for Japanese National Security. Now he's working for Interpol and his current assignment is to steal some counterfeit US currency plates that the underworld is after. He bumps into another thief, JJ (Shu Qi), who tries to thwart him, but he makes off with the plates and turns them over to Owen (Richie Ren), a member of the Asian branch of the CIA. But, Owen absconds with the plates and takes off to Korea where he intends to sell them to a big time, mysterious, counterfeiter named Polar Bear. Not liking to be one-upped, Lam chases after Owen and gets his trio of ass kicking Korean babes to help out.
Lam steals the plates from someone. Owen steals the plates from Lam. Lam goes to Korea, chases Owen on the subway, chases Owen to a bar, chases Owen to a bathhouse, and in-between, some firsts fly, some verbal wit is exchanged, we find out Owen is actually a good guy, and Shu Qi shows up again to make some cute faces. Pretty simple.
Director Jingle Ma returns to the same material, the same spirit of action and comedy, slick direction, snazzy settings, and pretty faces. But, really, while it didn't send too many people grumbling from the theater, Tokyo Raiders was such vaporous commercial fare it didn't leave audiences crying out for a franchise. But, you know, all you need is some stars and a fourth of a script and there's your New Year movie. you can probably expect Jakarta Raiders, or something similair, on the horizon.
Unfortunately Seoul Raiders is so light, it floats away. Yeah, everyone is pretty to look at, but the exchanges are not exactly Tracy-Hepburn. It's not a matter of chemistry as much as it is just thin material. Richie Ren really only has one decent scene where Tony Lueng and his Charlie's Angels trio interrogate him by shoving pure wasabi sushi (well, there is one grain of rice) down his throat. Shu Qi does her usual cute routine. The other chicks are forgettable. Tony Lueng, luckily, seems to be having a good time, and seeing how he was coming off another Wong Kar Wai melodrama boot camp, I'm sure a sprightly popcorn flick was a welcome vacation and nice paycheck. On the action front, there is quite a lot, which isn't much of a surprise considering the thin story. But, the scenes aren't really too standout. Many scenes are shot in silhouette so the stunt doubles could bear the brunt of the workday while the actors lounged by the pool. Even the finale is a bit of a letdown.
But, ya' know it is all harmless fun. Just not fun enough.
The DVD: HK, Mega Star.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Well, the damn film just came out, so in terms of print quality it is all fresh. The film had a substantial budget so the cinematography is pretty much flawless and has that modern HK action veneer of being all polished, sharp, with an urban cool blue and gray tinge. General levels, sharpness, contrast, and color details are all quite good. Technically the image is pretty sound with no glaring flaws that I could see. There is probably a little compression going on but not to any severe degree.
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Cantonese or Mandarin language options, or DTS Cantonese. Optional Chinese or English subtitles. Good sound quality, again, as expected with a big budget film. Atmospherics and action fx get a good mix in the surround channels. Separation is all quite good and the DTS shows the most range- as it should. Jingle Ma gets big minus points for blatantly ripping off and overusing one of Kill Bill's few original songs. The subtitle translation is quite good.
Extras: The Story (just a text synopsis)— "Making of" Featurette. Not subtitled.— Travelogue. Five little featurettes showing behind the scenes filming of certain location-centric scenes.— Trailer— Cast/Credits— Deleted Scene. Still in a rough state and timecoded. Dialogue heavy and, again, not subbed.
Conclusion: This one is breezy and fun but not exactly magnetic enough to warrant a purchase unless you are a serious Tony Leung fan or a fan of Tokyo Raiders. The DVD is a good presentation in terms of the actual film, though, the bane of all importers, it has extras that are not English friendly, thus sealing the deal on this one belonging in the rental category.