Think Chinese ‘Goonies’ for grownups, add a dash of ‘Indiana Jones’, a pinch of ‘Tomb Raider’, mix in a Yoko Ono lookalike, and set it unnecessarily in the 80’s, and you’ll have this fun-loving, over-the-top action-adventure. Once this movie, lush in visually spectacular expensive sets and special effects, gets going, it doesn’t stop. Much like the characters within, you’ll need lightning fast abilities if you want to keep up with the ‘blink of an eye’ subtitles and follow what’s happening on screen, leaving you with the feeling that a lot of the intricately crafted visuals may be wasted as you don’t get enough time to fully take them all in.
There’s a risk this movie places style over substance. Once inside the tomb, the scenery becomes a little samey, the action sequences feel a little formulaic, and the bizarre mix of revolutionary China and 1980’s New York is certainly unconventional. That said, the performances of all the cast are solid. Huang Bo does a good job of providing the comic relief added to the possibility that some of the interesting dialogue has been lost in translation. Chen Kun plays your inward philosophical Keanu Reeves type character, while Shu Qi somehow morphs Lara Croft into a whiny almost yielding woman. Yet the threesome works well on screen.
The theme clearly points to China’s distain of Westernization and calls for a respect of the old ways as well as a return to revolutionary camaraderie between citizens. As expected, there’s heart to the story that builds to an emotional resolution in the climax, leaving you feeling warm inside and allows you to forgive the cartoonish calamity that the plot becomes in the second half. Ultimately this sort of feels like a really good kids movie that just happens to contain occasional swearing and gore. It has enough action to keep kids hooked but lacks the complex characters and satisfying action sequences that an adult audience will crave.