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Tony Leung is one of Hong Kong cinema’s best actors. Over the years he has proved his worth in myriad films, from police thrillers like the outstanding Infernal Affairs movies to epic wire-fu adventures like Hero and lavish period pieces like the Wong-Kar Wai Love Trilogy. He is an outstanding actor, clearly capable of bringing a great deal to whatever he puts his mind to. Just hearing his name associated with a movie generally deems it worth seeing. But, then again, it was not long ago that I would have said the same about the likes of Robert De Niro. Clearly, there are always exceptions, but is Seoul Raiders an exception for Tony Leung, or another masterpiece to add to his résumé?

Seoul Raiders

|Feature


Lam and JJ bump into each another during a daring raid on a secure building where counterfeiting plates are being held. Since they are both after the same prize, they briefly join forces, but only to evade pursuit—once free they turn on one another and only one escapes with the plates. It turns out that, whilst JJ is a master thief, Lam has much more honourable reasons for the operation—he is an experienced Chinese secret agent on loan to the Japanese government. Unfortunately, not all of his contacts are as trustworthy and Lam soon finds himself at the mercy of corrupt US agent Owen Lee. Drugged and framed, Lam calls on three former colleagues—young, female, sexy and kick-ass, kind of like Charlie’s Angels—who are all more than keen on helping him bring Lee to justice.

For those in the know, Seoul Raiders is a direct sequel to director Jingle Ma’s 2000 hit Tokyo Raiders, and sees Tony Leung reprise the lead role of suave secret agent Lam for a mission involving terrorist groups, corrupt agents and even an out-of-control plane. After Tokyo Raiders, this may not come as much of a surprise to fans, but I personally was quite taken aback by this movie and its particular comedy-action style. Hollywood has tried this kind of thing plenty of times before, but Hong Kong cinema is particularly famous for this type of production. The only person who can really pull it off is someone like Jackie Chan and Tony Leung just does not seem suited to this kind of material. Despite being backed-up by Richie Jen (as the corrupt Owen Lee) and The Transporter’s Shi-Qu (as the thief JJ), the movie just does not hold together very well and the leads look slightly out of place combining action and comedy in this fashion.

Seoul Raiders
The trouble is that it is difficult taking the plot seriously when everybody is behaving in such an inept fashion. I have never seen such terrible police-work, such lame capture and restraint techniques and silly excuses for contrived chases in all my experience of movies like this. Even the fights often dissolve into ridiculous comedy sequences that deflate any enjoyment you may have of the action in the movie (and all of the silly plot twists in the world could not justify the behaviour). I could not always tell whether or not Tony Leung was doing all of the martial arts techniques himself (particularly the repeat kicks) but after a while it does not really matter as you aren’t really supposed to take any of it that seriously. I am absolutely certain that if you liked the original movie, this sequel is not going to disappoint you because it just presents more of the same, but newcomers should only brave this title if they can handle a heavy dose of slapstick comedy and frank stupidity in what appears to be an otherwise reasonable action adventure.

Video


Seoul Raiders is presented in a reasonably good 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Detail levels vary, with some close-up sequences looking resoundingly good, whilst others seem a little soft. There is little noticeable edge enhancement but there are some scenes that do showcase a bit too much grain. The colour scheme is generally that of any serious Hong Kong police thriller (which this is not), with lots of night sequences, neon lighting and fights in darkly-lit alleyways. Blacks are reasonably solid and there are a few print defects at the start, but nothing to really concern yourself with.

Seoul Raiders

Audio


There are two main tracks in the original Cantonese language—a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort and a marginally superior DTS alternative. Both tracks exhibit excellent surround usage, with even the dialogue being given more than just the frontal array to play with. The effects are fairly frequent and well-represented, with gunshots, plenty of fights and a few nice action sequences to brings the surrounds to life once more. The score also does a good job at drawing you into the movie, although sometimes the music is very badly chosen (the horrible—admittedly comedic—ballad over the swimming pool fight is inexcusable, even if it can be regarded as just parody). There is no significant bass to speak of on either tracks, although the DTS track does have slightly more potency. It should be noted that the subtitles are generally clear and coherent throughout and run for all of the extras as well.

Extras


First up we get a making-of documentary that is split into five main sections: 'Spotlight on Tony Leung', 'Spotlight on Richie Jen', 'Spotlight on Shu Qi', 'The Heart and Seoul of Korea' and 'Working Hard, Looking Good'. Each section is about two minutes long, but we do get plenty of interviews, background footage from the movie being filmed and behind the scenes stunt and fight footage. Not exactly a comprehensive documentary, it still gives you a good flavour for how this movie was put together and it is nice to have contributions from all the main cast and crew members.

'Seoul Girls: A Travelogue' is a section devoted to the sexy trio of co-stars in the movie, split into five sections: 'Hot and Steamy', 'Tasty Treats', 'Hitting the Town', 'Shop Till You Drop' and 'The Body Beautiful', with the option to play all. Each section is only a couple of minutes' long but features one (or all) of the girls taking you behind the scenes at various locations vaguely related to the movie: the sauna, the restaurant, the club etc. We get to see a little behind the scenes footage, but this is largely fluffy, pointless extra material, made infinitely more palatable by the gorgeous hostesses.

Seoul Raiders
The interview with the director, Jingle Ma, is some twenty-two minutes long and whilst it does not make up for the lack of commentary, it does provide a wealth of extra information that fans will be pleased to learn about. He compares his movies to comic books, discusses filming in Japan, choosing his stars and his specific scene locations and how he put the production together. There is a little behind the scenes footage to illustrate his words and overall this is an interesting little addition, with only a bit of final film footage to pad it out.

There are four minutes' worth of deleted scenes with subtitles, mostly including more of Tony Leung and Shu Qi in conversation. With no action whatsoever (not even any comedy), these extra moments were rightfully excised.

The promotional gallery features the UK promotional trailer, the original theatrical trailer and some promotional art in the form of a five-minute slideshow that showcases different theatrical release posters for the movie.

Finally we get trailers for Chow Yun Fat's Once a Thief, Moon Warriors, Millionaires Express, Odd Couple, Skinny Tiger Fatty Dragon, Iron Monkey and a couple of Jackie Chan movies— City Hunter and Project A.
 
Seoul Raiders

Overall


Seoul Raiders is a fairly cheesy, silly farce featuring a wasted performance by the great Tony Leung. I’m sure that fans of the original Tokyo Raiders won’t be that disappointed with this effort, particularly with its reasonable video and decent audio, and the wealth of extras, but I would advise a cautious rental to all those unfamiliar with this distinctive style of action-comedy. Jackie Chan fans might accept Leung in the role, but I was a little nonplussed by this affair—if the main protagonists never take themselves seriously, how on earth are we supposed to?


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