Treasure Hunters (1981)

Directed by
Great action, mixed comedy
Reviewed by Simon on 2005-07-21

It must be frustrating to have a world-famous older brother, since no matter how talented you are yourself you'll always be known as "the brother of...". TREASURE HUNTERS features two brothers who must know how this feels - director Lau Kar-Wing (brother of Lau Kar-Leung) and Cheung Chin-Pang, making his film debut here opposite his brother Fu Sheng. Both were undoubtedly talented, but neither had anything like the success or fame that their siblings had. Neither seem particularly bothered by the fact though, so I guess it's all good.

Cheung Chin-Pang is a real revelation in this film, which is apparently not the first time I'd seen him but is the first time I've noticed him. He's easily a match for his brother in both comedy and action scenes, and has better features & physique to my eyes - I would have expected him to become at least as famous as Fu Sheng, but he seems to have only made 7 films before retiring, and usually as second fiddle to Fu Sheng. Perhaps he didn't enjoy making films that much.

Kung-fu comedy isn't particularly my thing, especially not when "comedy" basically means "people with disabilities or disfigurements being stupid". TREASURE HUNTERS is undoubtedly a cut above the norm though, being actually quite funny (though there's some of that funny-face comedy that doesn't amuse too) and having absolutely splendid action arrangements.

The standards for kung-fu comedy were already set high by 1981, and whilst TREASURE HUNTERS might not be of the very highest class in the action, it's certainly one that fans of the genre will want to have in their collection. Having so many skilled martial artists in the cast obviously helps, but credit must go primarily to the action directors for finding fresh & clever ways to demonstrate & exploit the talents of the cast. Gordon Liu seems to be coasting a bit in another Shaolin monk role, but Fu Sheng and especially Cheung Chin-Pang both give great physical performances that combine adept martial artistry with some estute clowning around. They're both nearly upstaged by the film's villains though (who are perhaps helped by the fact they can play their roles straight) - Wang Lung-Wei is in incredible form here, fierce and powerful and extremely convincing as a dangerous man. Yeung Jing-Jing gives one of her best action performances as his fast, limber and mute sister. They very nearly steal the film - which is quite a feat in a film with Gordon Liu, Fu Sheng, Lau Kar-Wing and Wilson Tong!

The script from Wong Jing is also also an asset - the man could write a good story when he felt like it, and the comedy is not exactly sophisticated but not as crude or lazy as in some of his own films. It's the action that makes the film though - as it should be!