Tracing Shadow began at the end of the Ming Dynasty (大明), the Empire was in turmoil and chaos reigned. Meanwhile at the northern frontier, the Manchurian were poised to advance upon the Imperial City. Within this barren frontier, YeHe ChangGong (Francis Ng) who was a Mongolian swordsman dueled with NaLan, a Manchurian warrior, for the title of Supreme Martial Art Master. However, YeHe ChangGong purposely lost the fight to avoid the tumult of war and relinquished his title.
At the chaotic Imperial City, YeHe ChangGong nestled outside Tai Bai restaurant spending his days playing his erhu (二胡). In the meanwhile, martial arts masters from different regions, royal guards to local bandits began to gather in the city vying for the coveted map of Emperor TaiZu’s (趙匡胤) treasures hidden inside the Imperial Palace. Ming Yue Xin (Pace Wu), a ninja from Ryukyu, arrived at restaurant to spy on a secret meeting among a trio of thieves and her arrival caught the attention of YeHe ChangGong . From the secret meeting, Ming Yue Xin discovered that the thieves planned to storm the Imperial Palace during the upcoming Autumn Festival. YeHe ChangGong followed Ming Yue Xin inside Tai Bai restaurant and soon the two are connecting via musical duel between them. They agreed to continue their musical duel three days later at highest rooftop of Imperial Palace. However, their night time rendezvous coincided with the plan break-in at the Imperial Palace by three masked thieves who secretly planned to steal a rumored treasure map three days earlier at the restaurant.
Ming Yue Xin outwitted the three masked thieves in stealing the treasure map from the Imperial Palace while YeHe Changgong watching the entire episode from afar. The three masked thieves pursued her across the rooftop of the Palace before cornering Ming Yue Xin at LanRuo Temple. YeHe ChangGong was following them from the distance and at the nick of time rescued Ming Yue Xin. All five of them tangled in a vigorous scuffle for the precious map and all five participants were injured. The precious Emperor TaiZu’s map unexpectedly vanished as the result.
Flash forward five years later at an outskirt village of Imperial City called Sideroad Town, the treasure seeking thieves have each assumed a disguise of ordinary villagers in hoping to find the coveted map. They masqueraded themselves as a Jackie Tang (Xu XiaKe) the fashion designer, Andy (He Gang) the singer and Jet Chu the monk. At the same time, YeHe ChangGong and Ming Yue Xin posed as a platonic married couple managing a modest small inn called the Dragon Inn with their petulant adopted daughter Tang Wei (Xie Na). Each one of them suffered humiliation from a young landlord Xu San Guan (Jaycee Chan) for housing rents and debts.
Lord Xu San Guan inherited the estate of Sideroad Town and he struggled to collect rents from the villagers. He also had a crush for Tang Wei. Meanwhile, the town’s hapless mayor, Gu Yue Jin (Dang HaoHan) had a lust for Ming Yue Xin. Ming Yue Xin was still intending to find the treasure for the sake of her assigned duty and she used her charm to obtain information about the Sideroad Town from Mayor Gu Yue Jin.
Everyone seemed to be getting along fine, until rumors of the elusive map begin to resurface when Lord Xu San Guan obliviously revealed to the entire village that it was in his possession while arguing with a fortune teller. The situation of this once peaceful ordinary village suddenly turned chaotic when the old rivalries to search for treasures intensified again. Soon every rapscallion in the area and Manchurian army led by NaLan came to Sideroad Town to claim the treasures. In the meanwhile, Ming Yue Xin, Tang Wei, and Lord Xu San Guan proceeded to hunt for the treasure with the map. From the clues written on the map, they were able to discover the underground caverns. Back in the town, YeHe ChangGong once again renewed his old rivalry with NaLan. Their fight took place just above the treasure caverns and they were fired upon by Manchurian’s canons causing them to fall through underground.
Tang Wei and Lord Xu San Guan managed to find the treasure chamber. As they were trying to open the treasure chest, YeHe ChangGong and Ming Yue Xin broke through the chamber’s wall from the might of the beating by NaLan. The treasure chest could not be opened by force. It was locked with series of mathematical riddles. NaLan then coerced Lord Xu San Guan to open it. When it was opened, the treasure was nothing but a pickaxe. In disgust NaLan threw it up in the air. It eventually came down on his head and killed him. The cavern imploded upon the discovery of the treasure and our heroes managed to escape. Ming Yue Xin realized that her treasure was YeHe ChangGong.
The storyline of Tracing Shadow, a wuxia comedy, is somewhat convoluted and chaotic. It takes a fair amount of time to get going albeit has some outstanding visual effects and action set pieces for good measures. It’s probably something you would expect from a film like this.
Much of the high point comedy of Tracing Shadow is derived from the parade of lookalikes of Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Jet Li. They provide humor for a few chuckles but little else. This was probably the most entertaining moment of the ineffective movie.
The acting on Tracing Shadow is not going to win any awards but it’s pretty descent. Visually there is not much in the film that will really convince fans of wuxia comedy genre that they should care. However, it won’t make audience to skip through 88 minutes of the movie either. The action scenes are solid enough to keep the audience tune.
Francis Ng … Ye He Chang Kong
Pace Wu … Ming Yue Xin
Jaycee Chan … Lord Xu San Guan
Xie Na … Tang Wei
Dang HaoHan … Mayor Gu Yue Jin
He Gang … Andy/Hong JiaLiang
Xu XiaKe … Jackie Tang
Chinese Title: 追影
Director: Francis Ng, Mak Chi Sin
Screenplay: Wei Jun Zi, Xing He Tao, Shao Qing Ming
Producer: Wang Zhong Lei, Leung Chi Cheung, Zhang Da Jun, Zhang Ruo Yi
Director of Photography: Gwong Ting Woh
Action Choreographer: Ma Yuk Sing
Art Director: Cheuk Man Yiu
Image Designer: Cindy Cheung
Composer: Liu Le
Soundtrack: Cong HaoNan (Tracing Shadow)
Filming Locations: Beijing, China
Release Date: July 30, 2009
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
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