By James Robert Shaw (The Wind-up Geek) and Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
James: There is a lot to say about Asian comedy action flicks, China and Japan’s in particular. They are of a different garden variety than North Americans are used to. They stand somewhere between Lethal Weapon and The Naked Gun. It’s an acquired taste for this particular movie goer and unless you have spent many years of your life growing accustomed to such cinema, the road in may be a bumpy one.
Ed: … and for James, he does not see as much as I do. Mind you, I binge on the Asian cinema more often and I like to watch the supernatural stuff along with the occasional light-hearted material. I go out of my way to hunt for Asian films that catch my interest in Chinese video rental shops in my home town and Vancouver. I do not limit myself to the names who have managed to make some dent in the North American entertainment scene — namely Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow and Sammo Hung. There’re new celebrities these days, and Bounty Hunters is a vehicle for making Lee Min-ho an international star. But there are other well-known names in the South Asian entertainment scene in this film, and I recognized a few names.
I was introduced to the beautiful Chinese actress and model Tiffany Tang in the fantasy-adventure Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe. In this modern action-comedy, she plays Cat, and her partner is Swan (Chinese Model Karena Ng), the tech genius. These two have to pair up with two former Chinese agents (they once worked for Interpol) who stumbled into a nefarious plot of Hotel A’s getting bombed; Singapore is quite literally up in arms, trying to find the culprit, and they are having no luck. They blame Lee Shan (South Korean heart-throb Lee Min-Ho) and Ayo (Hong Kong star Wallace Chung) for the crime, but they are not the true culprits!
JS: Tang does make for a great, sexy leader but don’t underestimate her looks — she is dangerous and quite capable. With her, Swan and BoBo (Siu-Wong Fan) as the original team, Tang’s character is diminished when she and Shan form a partnership for both necessity and money. Cat loses some of her edge as she is smitten by his good looks.
Tang became less damsel is dangerous and more damsel in distress.
ES: Bobo is kind of like the Kato (The Green Hornet) of the group. He’s hilarious and makes for some great moments. However, the inevitable romance between Shan and Cat was too much, even though I knew this movie was all about glam and camp.
I wanted to see more of Swan though. She’s the prettier of the two. But between all the wardrobe changes she had between set pieces, I had to ask, why? There was only one instance where the men had to change their looks out of necessity instead of modelling the latest fashions for movie-goers. Unless I have plans on vacationing in Singapore, I’m not going to be able to buy some of the latest wear the boys are wearing. Mind you, getting a stylish Pendleton is on my radar.
The bros are hilarious and they make up the traditional xiangsheng type of comedy duo Chinese entertainment is famous for. While each of these stars has their respective following in China and Korea, the movie did feel like a product of factory design.
The film is surprisingly well-balanced to give each of these faces a chance to shine as action stars. However, in the back of my mind, I kept on thinking City Hunter, and Lee Min Ho is the star of the 2011 South Korean television produced series of the same name (inspired by the Japanese manga by Tsukasa Hojo). I had to watch this remake again after this film and I’m sure this bit of casting and a similar concept is not a coincidence.
JS: City Hunter never entered my mind but Wallace Chung did. I couldn’t help but compare him both in comedy style and looks to a Japanese comedian by the name of Hōsei Tsukitei. He is one of my favourite Japanese comics (and a vital member of the TV cast of Downtown Gaki no Tsukai) and I’m sure Chung will be added to that list.
ES: I am amazed at how fast this film made it to North America (it was released on July 1st in China) — it’s like the studios wasted no time to deliver to cities with a strong Asian community (namely, Vancouver, BC). I can’t say for certain how long it will play in the USA, namely in San Francisco, CA. Word to the wise: know your Mandarin if you want to skip reading subtitles.
JS: I was able to read what was being translated but there were two or three times I had to translate the translation. I wonder if this was a job contracted out in China because I’ve seen these rough translations before, But it is regrettable to see a movie like this make the trek across the water only to receive little in the way of advertising. We didn’t have to wonder why only 5 other people were in attendance, we knew.
ES: Grammar problems and bad spelling are normal, James. What have you been watching in the past 25 years? There has not been much improvement since Asian films began appearing in the late 80’s. I suspect the more money a studio is willing to invest in translation services affects the quality that’s offered. The last Chinese film I saw early this year and theatrically, The Mermaid , was better if I am to start critiquing the quality of the subtitles.
JS: I hope to see a sequel. The film is tame enough when it comes to acts of violence. The hunters themselves prefer tasers to bullets. But for their first outing, the pacing could’ve been picked up. The North American trailer gives the impression of non-stop action but upon seeing this movie, this reveal is not true of the finished product.
3 Stars out of 5
Special Thanks To: The Imaginary World of Monika.
Video Source(s): Minoz Viet Nam.