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  Undiscovered Tomb Lara who?
Year: 2002
Director: Douglas Kung
Stars: Marsha Yuan, Yoko Shimada, Sik Siu-Lung, John Zhang-Jin, Ken Wong, Miyuki Koinuma, Si Hei-Yue, Ng Shui-Tung, Mak Wai-Cheung, Xiao Bao
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Georgia (Marsha Yuan) and Mandy (Miyuki Koinuma) are acrobatic archaeologists working with their mentor, Professor Ivy Chan (Yoko Shimada), to retrieve ancient Chinese artefacts. Such as a stone tablet hidden in a statue purchased by Michael Lui (Ken Wong), a billionaire art collector being harassed by a gang of violent mercenaries also after the item. It turns out to be one of three tablets that hold the clues to unlock an ancient mystery. While Professor Chan helps Michael in Hong Kong, Georgia and Mandy venture into a remote region on the Indian-Chinese border in search of the other two tablets. Aided by a scrappy kung fu urchin called the Kid (Sik Siu-Lung) and Steve (John Zhang-Jin), a hapless archaeology student on vacation, the pair plunge into a perilous adventure.

In the grand tradition of Hong Kong films looking to leech off Hollywood blockbusters Undiscovered Tomb sought to cash-in on the then-recent Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). Aside from mimicking its general tone along with a handful of key set-pieces the film proves more coherent than the nonsensical Angelina Jolie vehicle. At least until literally its last few seconds but we'll get to that.

The film was foremost an effort to make a star out of Marsha Yuan, daughter of iconic martial arts actress Cheng Pei-Pei of Come Drink With Me (1966) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) fame. It did not take. While able to secure an international release with a fairly competent English dub, Undiscovered Tomb barely played theatres in Hong Kong where Yuan remains best known for her supporting turn in a popular sitcom. While exhibiting some charisma and athletic ability, Yuan is saddled with such a charmless, perpetually grouchy heroine it is little wonder audiences were nonplussed. All Georgia does is grimace and kick ass. There is really nothing to her character. Similarly nondescript is comedy sidekick Miyuki Koinuma who mostly whines whilst lugging her designer luggage through the dense jungle. However unlike her male equivalent: Alan Tam in Armour of God (1986) Mandy can at least handle herself in a fight.

Actor-turned-director Douglas Kung assembles a slick production with what looks like a decent budget for the time. One that extends to neat sets and suitably eye-catching locations along with an interestingly eclectic international cast. Including former kung fu child star Sik Siu-Lung, from the Shaolin Popeye films, and veteran Japanese actress Yoko Shimada who remains best known for playing opposite Richard Chamberlain in the hit Seventies miniseries Shogun. Both the acrobatic camera and wire fu stunts reflect the prevailing style of action movies in the post-Matrix climate of both Hollywood and Asia. Flashy but insubstantial. While light on plot the film cannot claim to be light on its feet. The pacing is leaden as an awkward, episodic and aimless plot pits Georgia's gang against hostile tribes, gun-toting mercenaries, quicksand, a giant CGI snake, a swarm of scorpions and budget-saving invisible monsters. Eventually revealed as shrieking stuntmen covered in shrubbery. Only the finale that has Georgia and Mandy tangle with a Terracotta warrior come to malevolent life in an atmospheric underground tomb exhibits some level of energy, invention and atmosphere. That said any good will engendered by that sequence is swiftly deflated by a ludicrous and nonsensical "surprise ending" liable to infuriate viewers.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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