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  Treasure Inn One more round
Year: 2011
Director: Wong Jing
Stars: Nicholas Tse, Nick Cheung, Charlene Choi, Crystal Huang Yi, Tong Da-Wei, Liu Yang, Yuen Tak, Philip Ng Wan-Lung, Pan Shuang-Shuang, Tong Wai-Shing, Kenny Ho, Zheng Xiao-Dong, Cheng Hei-Yi, Sun Xiao-Fei
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Young Master Liu Jianmeng (Nicholas Tse) and his bucktoothed pal, Brad (Nick Cheung) are a couple of low-ranking feudal era police officers who dream of cracking a big case. They get their chance when called to investigate a mass murder-cum-robbery at the Zhang Family estate. Unfortunately, Jianmeng’s shrewd deductions arouse the suspicion of chief investigator Captain Iron (Yuen Tak) who wrongly believes both cops were in on the job. Imprisoned and tortured, the boys seize their chance to escape, thanks to the ingenuity of Lady Fire Dragon (Crystal Huang Yi) and Lady Water Dragon (Charlene Choi), two foxy female bandits with whom they are swiftly smitten. Hoping to prove their innocence, the friends track the stolen treasure to the so-called Treasure Inn, a remote trading post for smugglers and treasure seekers run by lovely Yue Ling-Long (Liu Yang). This enigmatic martial arts maiden earns an admirer in Liu but has another in Wen Wen-Qie (Tong Da-Wei), a mysterious healer who pops up periodically to perplex our heroes and who pretends to be a klutz even though he is really a kickass kung fu master.

2011 proved a bumper year for Wong Jing fans. Yes, we do exist. The veteran schlockmeister leap-frogged across almost all his familiar genres, dabbling in family film (Treasure Hunt), sex comedy (Men Suddenly in Love) and horror anthology (Hong Kong Ghost Stories). With Treasure Inn, Jing produced what appeared to be a pre-emptive spoof of Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011), the Tsui Hark blockbuster that arrived later that year. However, this all-star spoof also recycles the familiar ensemble-cast-goofing-around-in-period-costume template that served Wong so well in the Nineties, e.g. Flying Daggers (1993), Kung Fu Cult Master (1993) and Legend of Liquid Sword (1992). On top of that the film also has avowed movie buff Wong pay affectionate hommage to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, complete with cod-Ennio Morricone score, a feminine twist on the scam Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach pulled in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), plus a throwaway line wherein Young Master Liu describes his grandfather as a man with no name.

Among Wong Jing’s most technically accomplished efforts, Treasure Inn features sumptuous cinematography, stirring special effects (particularly the rousing climax that finds our heroes besieged by both an army of bandits and a raging tornado) and consistently impressive action orchestrated by celebrated director-choreographer Corey Yuen Kwai. The veteran action ace incorporates some surprisingly visceral wire fu alongside the more fantastical CGI flourishes that complement Jing’s reoccuring use of animated sight gags. Whilst the comedy proves hit and miss, the action is lively and inventive and the mystery plot, usually the weakest element in films like these, surprisingly detailed and compelling. There is also a strong romantic element, ruminating on a theme of sacrifice being the essence of love that culminates in an affecting tragi-poetic denouement. The film reunites the leads from the similarly wistful tragi-comedy-fantasy A Chinese Tall Story (2005) but gives Charlene Choi almost nothing to do besides simper in a lovely dress while the usually-reliable Nicholas Tse appears disinterested. Equally, co-star Liu Yang is underwhelming in the key role of kung fu femme fatale and the film even acknowledges such via a throwaway line from Brad.

Last seen as the remorseless child kidnapper opposing Nicholas Tse in The Beast Stalker (2008), comedian Nick Cheung returns to his roots and proves sporadically amusing with his comedy dentures. Crystal Huang Yi proves equally game as his feisty love interest, a role that proves quite a contrast from her other big release of 2011, the historical biopic The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake. For a Wong Jing spoof, Treasure Inn is not without its charms but somewhat overfamiliar.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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