In the northwest desert where countless prosperous dynasties have flourish and fallen, there is rumour of a buried treasure of unbelievable riches. A group of mysterious guardians have kept the map to the location of the treasure safe, until a fierce rivalry erupts. A notorious international crime group, The Company hunt down the map keepers and before they manage to secure it, the keeper passes the map to a young chivalrous man Ciao Fei (Jay Chou). Ciao Fei is forced to give up the map to save the live of his mentor's daughter Lan Ting (Lin Chi Ling). Teaming up with Hua Ding Bang (a famous archaeologist) and Lan Ting they embark on a dangerous journey to recover the map and fight to protect the ancient treasure.
In less than a decade or so, Jay Chou has emerged as one of Asia’s most bankable star thanks to his musical abilities which makes him a chart-topper with every album he has released. Since then, the multi-talented artiste has tried his hand as a MTV director, a full-pledged movie director (Secret), a businessman who co-owns restaurants and the occasional actor (Curse of the Golden Flower, Kung Fu Dunk).
In a role that is tailored to showcase his aura of 'coolness' to the maximum, Chou plays Qiaofeng, a treasure protector who must rescued the kidnap of his boss’s estranged daughter, Lan Ting (Lin Chiling) from Pork Rib (Eric Tsang). Rib wants Lan Ting’s father to hand him the map to the Lost City whereby treasures are believed to be buried underneath. Together with them is Hua (Chen Daoming), a famous archaeologist who made an ill-fated trip to the Lost City years ago with a group of his friends.
This and many other mumbo-jumbo about the Sandstorm Legion and Eagle of the Desert turned this fantasy adventure into an immensely dreary affair. With a script-writing team consisting no less than five writers and supervised by the acclaimed Ivy Ho, the lackluster script is a gleaming example of why too many cooks spoiled the soup. Plotlines that seem important one minute, disappear the next and many characters float in and out without apparently any substantial reason to be there.
Some are simply setup to fight against our dear Qiaofeng for example Will Liu Geng Hong’s character and River Chen who plays the mysterious yet laughable 'Eagle of the Desert'. Of course Chiling is the damsel in distress cum love interest, Eric Tsang provides comic relief and Mainland actor Chen Daoming like his onscreen character seems entirely detached from the whole movie. Miao Pu is the only actress in this movie that excites our senses with her somewhat similar facial features to a certain megastar, Michelle Yeoh.
Our man, Jay Chou of course is at his usual self playing the aloofness hero who can’t determine he likes Lan Ting or not. His character is the combination of both Indiana Jones and Rick O’ Connell (from The Mummy) but lacks the charm and wits of both. Perhaps it’s the truckload of mushy and uninteresting dialog that kills the chemistry between Chou and Chiling but top model and squeaky-voiced Lin Chiling in her second cinematic outing after "Red Cliff" passes off nothing more as a 'beautiful actress' to ogle at.
So what’s left in this Kevin Chu’s movie is the rated 'A' production values that is simply on par with any decent Hollywood’s output. Watch out for the 'Inn & Beer' seen in the beginning, the 'Traveller’s Village' and the finale set design which are visual enriching. The lush cinematography and the score by our local Ricky Ho really help to kill the time too. Tony Ching’s action choreography on the other hand is disappointing with plenty of unnecessary slow-mo shots and wirefu works that worked better in the decade old "The Matrix" or the next Jay Chou’s MTV.
2009 is a quiet year for Chinese productions. Unless you are a die-hard fan of Jay Chou or one who hug a photo of Chiling to bed on a nightly basis, I doubt you find "The Treasure Hunter" a worthy movie to end the year on a high note.