"Treasure Hunter" creeps its way to American audiences, two years after it's flop at the Taiwanese box office, largely due to star Jay Chou's screen stealing performance in "The Green Hornet" as Kato. Fans (like myself) of Chou's Kato (as well as his supporting role in "Curse of the Golden Flower") will be sorely disappointed in the actor's "work" here, although the blame of "Treasure Hunter's" failure to be anything but a loud, boring, aimless mess is equally spread across cast and crew alike. Beginning with a CGI and wire-work laden battle set to a self-important narration, "Treasure Hunter" gives off the vibe of being an over-the-top live action cartoon before pulling abruptly into the modern world of tired writer, Lan Ting (Lin Chi-ling) who struggles to finish her draft of the latest adventure novel.
"Treasure Hunter" continues its erratic structure and pacing, erupting a series of action pieces that at first draw viewers back into the confusing world of the yet-to-be-defined story, until some third-rate CGI defecates all over quite serviceable action. While comparisons to the remake of "The Mummy" and to a lesser extent "Romancing the Stone" are evident in "Treasure Hunter," the dead serious tone and staging of the film reminds me of "The Good, The Bad, The Weird," an even more bloated action film set in the desert amidst numerous action sequences. While I still don't care much for the previously mentioned film, I will give it credit for doing action practically and not going the route of "Treasure Hunter" which hamstrings itself every step of the way with painful effects work that destroy any and all goodwill. Case in point, an early appearance by a mummy results in a creative battle utilizing the wrappings as whips, but the sequence is realized in the computer and the tone is neither believable nor comical, just sad.
The film's bevy of following action sequences all get stunk up by the repeated use of such techniques, but when things slow down for exposition to occur, viewers will long for such dismal offerings. The plot and execution of "Treasure Hunter" is confused and convoluted with Chou's Qiao Fei character being brought in through a connection to Lan Ting's father, while a fellow archaeologist joins them for good measure, in search of, you guessed it, buried treasure, while trying to avoid evil gangsters and ignite sparks between Lan and Qiao. The performances do nothing to aid the forgettable dialogue and Chou sleepwalks through the film offering nothing in the charisma department, making the 105-minute runtime creep by ever so slowly, bloating itself even more with useless flashbacks and side-plots that no one cares about during, let alone after the film wraps up.
Seeing the end product in all it's disastrous glory, "Treasure Hunter" lives up to it's disastrous financial legend. I can safely say, had I had the misfortune of seeing this in a theater, the experience would have been far less miserable because I'd have walked out. Roughly 10 percent of "Treasure Hunter" is honest, inventive entertainment and even then, the quality is not enough to endure the remaining 90 percent. Ultimately, the film should serve as a lesson to future filmmakers of what not to do when making a similar genre film because "Treasure Hunter" fails in every category it competes in and Jay Chou in particular, should be ashamed for such lazy work.
The 2.35:1 original aspect ratio transfer sports strong, vivid colors, balanced natural contrast, and little issue with compression artifacts that like to rear their head against primary backgrounds such as intense sky views. Detail levels never reach any level of greatness, but are consistently above average. The overall quality of the transfer is a double-edged sword as it highlights the live-action cinematography's beauty while making the C-grade CGI stick out all the more.
The Dolby Digital Mandarin Stereo audio track is a real disappointment. First and foremost, there's some noticeable dubbing of actors (likely to or from Cantonese in post) that while not terrible, is annoying. The second problem is for a modern action "epic," the stereo track doesn't provide as immersive an experience as it should. It's a good track for what it is, but the lack of true surround work is a shame. A Dolby Digital English stereo dub is included as well as English subtitles.
The lone extra is the film's original trailer.
Insufferable, "Treasure Hunter" isn't worth a moment of your time or money. It's a self-important and equally confused mangling of high adventure. Those desiring quality genre fare are better off taking even the worst of "The Mummy" films, as those at least have some idea of what they are setting out to accomplish and more importantly, a lead actor who bothers to try and sell the material in the first place. Skip It.