The adventure began in the northwest desert where a group of mysterious secretive guardians have kept a location of buried treasures within a tomb. Legend had it that these unbelievable riches were accumulated over thousands of years through the flourished and fallen of countless prosperous kingdoms. For generations ever since the 11th century, the location of this tomb was guarded and kept a secret. Back then the location was actually guarded by hundreds of ancient warriors and a century later the location was only known by a map which the guardians handed down through generations. The leader of these mysterious guardians is called Eagle of the Desert. Every two decades a new Eagle of the Desert is selected through a martial art duel. The victor became or retained the Eagle of the Desert title and the loser must abandon the desert.
The most recent such castaway of the Eagle of the Desert duel was Qiao Fei (Jay Chou). Unlike the guardians whose sole duty was to protect the location or the map, Qiao Fei made his duty to prevent tomb raiders from stealing or removing priceless ancient artifacts from their original place. He and his mentor, Tu Lao Dai (Kenneth Tsang), were experts of the desert’s ancient relics and they bonded as a team especially against the Russian’s smugglers.
Tu Lao Dai had a daughter, Lan Ting (Lin Chi Ling), who was a novelist by trade. Lan Ting distanced herself from her father due to his fondness for the desert and his works. As archeologist Tu Lao Dai was away from home to most of Lan Ting’s life which resulted in estranged relationship between father and daughter. By chance during Qiao Fei’s tutelage with Tu Lao Dai, he became Lan Ting’s childhood friends. They also became a couple until they separated when he left for the desert.
Moving forward to current date, rumors got around that Tu Lao Dai obtained the secret map of the desert’s lost tomb. A gang of thief led by Spare Ribs (Eric Tsang) decided to kidnap Lan Ting in exchange for the map. At the same time during the kidnapping ploy, another group of smuggler led by Friday (Will Liu) forced their way into Tu Lao Dai’s residence. Friday and his men killed Tu Lao Dai when they were unable to seize the map from him. Little did anyone know that Tu Lao Dai had given Qiao Fei the map on the previous evening.
For guidance, Spare Ribs sought Hua Ding Bang’s (Chen DaoMing) assistance. Decades earlier, Hua Ding Bang was the only survivor came out from the ill-fated lost tomb’s expedition. He was also an expert with the desert surroundings and its history. They chose in the middle of desert, Da Mo Inn & Bar, as a place to exchange Tan Ling for the map. Tan Ling was rather surprised that Qiao Fei came for her rescue with the map instead of her father. She wasn’t aware that her father had already been killed. However, the exchange went awry as Friday showed up to claim the map. With a mummy like kung fu, Friday intended to kill everyone at the Da Mo Inn & Bar. But Qiao Fei thwarted his plan by fighting against him.
Meanwhile while everyone’s attention at the fight between Qiao Fei and Friday, a boy snagged the map and ran toward the desert. Both Qiao Fei and Friday stopped fighting and they all rushed outside the Inn. However, they didn’t continue to pursue the boy as they all saw within the distance heading their way were the legendary Sandstorm Legion. The Sandstorm Legion destroyed the Da Mo Inn & Bar and during the chaos, everyone managed to escape unscathed.
Spare Ribs and Hua Ding Bang followed Qiao Fei to safety where their intention was other than fleeing from the Sandstorm Legion. In the mean time, Qiao Fei and Lan Ting rekindled about their past and discussed about their next plan. With the map out of Qiao Fei’s hand, he decided to embark for recovery which prior the exchange meeting he already equipped the map case with GPS tracking device. Lan Ting on the other hand wanted to search for the answer of why her father spent the better half of her life in the desert.
The following morning Qiao Fei and Lan Ting left both Spare Ribs and Hua Ding Bang behind to trace the location of the map from its tracking device. Hua Ding Bang knew that the only place the two of them would have gone was the Traveler’s Village. Traveler’s Village was an outpost community where treasure hunters regrouped for rest stop or stocking up supplies. The tracking device brought Qiao Fei and Lan Ting to a leader who in appearance may well be the chief of the Sandstorm Legion. The chief wagered the map for Lan Ting in a duel with Qiao Fei. In the ensuing fight, Qiao Fei managed to unravel the identity of the chief. The chief, Swords Thirteen (Miao Pu), was indeed the leader of Sandstorm Legion and she was Qiao Fei’s old acquaintance from the past.
Swords Thirteen was disgruntled with Qiao Fei thinking that he would come back to her after his Eagle of the Desert title match. She witnessed how Qiao Fei purposely went down in defeat using a ruse and she was very much disappointed with the outcome. Feeling betrayed, Swords Thirteen and her Sandstorm Legion created havoc instead of protecting the desert from smugglers and tomb raiders. Seeing how things had changed, Qiao Fei was now more than ever determined to find the lost tomb to protect its content. Meanwhile to agitate Qiao Fei further, Swords Thirteen distributed freely the copies of the map to all treasure hunters in Traveler’s Village.
The Eagle of the Desert (Baron Chen) was waiting for the arrival of Qiao Fei and Lan Ting at the entrance of the tomb location. Apparently he realized that Qiao Fei deceived him on their last encountered and he wanted a rematch. Before the two could duke it out once for all, Swords Thirteen appeared in between them. She admitted that all the commotions she caused were to ferret the Eagle of the Desert into the open. Swords Thirteen knew he won’t surface unless the only person, who could find the lost tomb, Qiao Fei, appeared. Ignoring her plea, the Eagle of the Desert proceeded to attack a motionless Qiao Fei. Once again Swords Thirteen came in between them and she was stabbed unintentionally by the Eagle of the Desert’s thrust. In a flash, the Eagle of the Desert dropped his saber and held Swords Thirteen. It would appear that the two were romantically involved and had a fall out. Without so many words, the Eagle of the Desert and Swords Thirteen left the vicinity. Once they were gone, Qiao Fei and Lan Ting entered the lost tomb.
Once inside the tomb, Qiao Fei and Lan Ting found Spare Ribs and two of his men searching for path to go further in. While exploring the tomb, one of Spare Ribs men stumbled upon a strange looking fruit and ate it. He mutated into a flesh eating zombie and injuring Spare Ribs’ other henchman. Qiao Fei killed him and Spare Ribs’ other henchman turned into a flesh eating zombie as well. But one of many deadly traps within the tomb ousted him before he could attack anyone else around. Once the deadly traps were activated, Qiao Fei had a hard time stopping them until Hua Ding Bang emerged in time to halt the mechanical trigger. Hua Ding Bang seemed to be familiar with the surrounding of the tomb and opened the secret lever of the main hall. A brief encountered with four supernatural guardians ensued and once they were defeated, Qiao Fei found what he was seeking. Hua Ding Bang then revealed how he managed to be the only survivor from the last expedition. In the end, six of them entered the tomb and only three of them would leave; Hua Ding Bang chose to stay behind.
The Treasure Hunter is like a shopping experience of purchasing assortment of knockoffs at infamous Xiangyang Lu Market in Shanghai, China. A knockoff of Indiana Jones and the Mummy then spun the story into no plot other than some cheesy fight scenes and a mad scrambling to grab the treasure map. To top it off, there are so many details being left out due to characters keep on appearing out of nowhere with no explanations attached to their presence or after thoughts such as where did the villain Friday go and who does he work for; what’s the story behind Swords Thirteen and Eagle of the Desert; how did Swords Thirteen become the leader of the Sandstorm Legion; and where did the Sandstorm Legion go.
The onscreen romance is an utter failure with Jay Chou once again played his usual lackadaisical acting paired with Lin Chi Ling. It just did not work in any form whatsoever other than the pair throws some bad jokes and mushy dialogues here and there. Both Jay Chou and Lin Chi Ling are expressionless at best to make a perfect mummy-like couple.
Unless the movies goers are die hard Jay Chou fans, The Treasure Hunter is one flick discerning action adventure fans should avoid. It failed to leave a lasting impression and insufficient to keep it entertaining.
Jay Chou … Qiao Fei
Lin Chi Ling … Lan Ting
Chen DaoMing … Master Hua Ding Bang
Eric Tsang … Spare Ribs
Miao Pu … Swords Thirteen
Kenneth Tsang … Tu Lao Dai
Baron Chen … Eagle of the Desert
Will Liu … Friday
Ian Powers … Russian Smuggler
Li Wen Cheng … Young Qiao Fei
Guan Xiao Tong … Young Lan Ting
Dong Hui … Young Dao Dao
Chinese Title: 刺陵
Director: Chu Yin Ping
Screenplay: Charcoal Tan, Yip Wan Chiu, Lam Chiu Wing, Lam Ching Yan, Shao Hui Ting
Producer: Han SanPing, Han Xiao Li, Jiang Tai, Raymond Lee, Pei Gin Yam, Du Yang, Ding Li, Dong Zheng Rong, Han Xiao
Director of Photography: Zhao XiaoDing
Action Choreographer: Ching Siu Tung
Art Director: Yee Chung Man, Lau Man Hung
Composer: Ricky Ho
Soundtrack: Lin Chi Ling (Take Me Flying)
Filming Locations: Yinchuan, Zhongwei, and Wusi, China; Alxa Teng Ingrida Lake Grassland, Mongolia
Release Date: December 31, 2009
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
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