Treasure Hunt (1994)

Directed by
Worth watching for the good bits
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-02-03

I didn't realise when I was watching this that it was directed by Jeff Lau - if I had, I might have been less befuddled by the experience. It's another one of his "guess where the movie's going next" tales. We are introduced to Chow Yun-Fat and Michael Wong at the start, who are undercover CIA agents in the US. 10 minutes later, Chow is told that he is required to go to China to help steal a "national treasure". He agrees, and next thing we know he's being taken to the Shaolin Temple, where he is to hide out. Jeff then apparently completely forgets the whole CIA thing, and for the next hour it isn't even mentioned. It becomes Chow Yun-Fat hanging out in Shaolin Temple, where Gordon Liu is still the abbot apparently, and showing the monks how inferior their Chinese culture is to Western culture. Like, really... the apex of this is when we see the monks all dressed in baseball outfits, drinking coca cola and seemingly being as happy and fulfilled as a human could possibly be.

At Shaolin, Chow also comes across Wu Chien-Lien - an unusually female presence for the temple, but she is apparently confined there because she has "supernatural powers" so they don't want her hurting herself or something. Chow & Wu (who has never looked finer, I must say) fall for each other, and most of this part of the film plays out as a romantic comedy. I should mention the comedy... some truly absurd and dumb humour here, but there at moments that work and are v. funny!

Eventually, Jeff Lau apparently remembers the CIA bit, and re-introduces that part of the plot. Apparently there's been a lot happening since we last met up with it (not surprising since we must have been at Shaolin for months without anybody keeping us informed), and Chow rapidly gets caught up in intrigue and danger and a bunch of action sequences. Surprisingly, Lau does manage to bring the movie together here, and in the end you could be forgiven for thinking it was actually coherent. It all gets a lot more serious here - no goofy anymore.

It's another massively uneven Jeff Lau movie, but one with ample charms to be found too... Gordon Liu's abbot and Kuo Chui's cab driver, Wu Chien-Lien in general and a lot of luscious cinematography. And the fact that Michael Wong is only on screen for about 2 minutes total :)

I could have done without a lot of the comedy, **really** done without the "look how great western culture is, Coca Cola will solve all your woes" parts... but I'm glad I saw the rest of it.