Director: Shin Tae-Ra
Cast: ￼Lee Min-Ho, Wallace Chung, Karena Ng, Louis Fan, Tiffany Tang, Jeremy Jones Xu
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 14 July 2016
Synopsis: Bounty Hunters is an action comedy about the work of bounty hunters - people who catch fugitives for cash rewards. Ex-Interpol agents Lee Shan (Lee Min-Ho) and Ayo (Wallace Chung), framed for bombing a hotel, join hands with the legendary bounty hunter Cat (Tiffany Tang) and her team to find the real bomber…
Because Chinese audiences have never been shy about their love for glossy but shallow bid-budget Hollywood spy thrillers, it was only a matter of time before their own filmmakers responded in kind with a locally-made product of the same ilk. ‘Bounty Hunters’ is precisely that, a perfect imitation of Hollywood excess that wears its credentials proudly on its sleeve as it globe-trots from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Incheon to Bangkok and finally to Jeju Island. True to its heritage, its primary purpose is to entertain, even at the expense of plot or character (which it treats only as filler in between the numerous slick action sequences) and with scant regard to the laws of physics or of simple basic realism.
More important than the characters they play are the actors themselves, whose star wattage is one of the main draws. Korean actor Lee Min Ho headlines the pan-Asian cast, playing the stereotypical hero Lee San with the cool moves and unflappable attitude. Next to him is the comic foil Yo played by Hong Kong singer-actor Wallace Chung, a bumbling sidekick for the most part always ready with a pun to lighten up the mood. They are joined by Mainland actress Tang Yan as the no-nonsense Cat, seemingly tough-as-nails but a romantic-at-heart, and Hong Kong actress Karena Ng as her cheerful assistant Swan, whose presence is no more than to balance the girls-to-guys ratio in the ensemble.
As formula would have it, Lee San and Yo are initially at odds with Cat and her team (which includes Louis Fan as a loyal multi-talented butler who hardly ever speaks) before being forced to put aside their differences and work together in order to clear their name. Implicated as the terrorists behind a string of bombings of the A Hotel in Tokyo, Singapore (yay, we get a mention!), Incheon and Bangkok, it is altogether no surprise that Cat will eventually be attracted to Lee San or that the latter will end up saving her life at least once during the course of their adventure – a familiar but nonetheless effectively amusing scene has them trapped in the trunk of a moving car (in a blatant rip-off of George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in ‘Out of Sight’) with both taking turns to get over the other to hit a switch that will free them.
Their enemy as it turns out is the wannabe evil-looking Tommy, played by Mainland actor JeremyJoes Xu, whose motivation for engineering the bombings is never quite convincing (and was probably never meant to be anyways). By wave of an electromagnetic pulse transmitted by a trigger to vials of liquid bombs hidden within birthday cakes, Tommy gets to enjoy the ‘fireworks’ of the explosions completely unscathed – and along the way, he uses that same mechanism to hold hostage one of their own so as to force Cat to do his bidding. Neither his raison d'être nor his pseudo-psychopathic act comes off remotely sinister, and one wonders several times why Lee San or Cat does not simply throw him off the top of his tall building when they have the chance to – but hey, we wouldn’t have a show then, would we?
Indeed, Tommy stays alive in order to give excuse for Min Ho and Cat to show off their lightning-quick martial arts, both of whom apparently more skillful than ‘Ip Man’ in taking out about 20 baddies each at one go. As if sensing that mere punches, kicks and dodges cannot quite sustain their younger-skewing fan demographic, our heroes also get to choose from a bevy of sophisticated weapons/ gadgets, including a cudgel that can double up as an electric stun gun, a double-reinforced Kevlar bulletproof vest and a wireless transmitter cum earpiece that can camouflage like skin under one’s ear. On his part, director Shin Tae-ra keeps the action flowing at a fast snappy clip, and even if none of the sequences dazzle on their own, they minimally do not outlast their welcome.
Diverting though the whole enterprise may be, there is more than a hint of disappointment that ‘Bounty Hunters’ is content to be as superficial and inconsequential as many of its Hollywood counterparts. Because there seems to be greater emphasis on making sure the actors and the shots look attractive and gratifying, there is hardly any sense that anything is at stake – be it life, limb or other collateral. If you’re looking for some mindless fun, ‘Bounty Hunters’ is just that; otherwise, you’d be advised to look elsewhere for some other bounty.
(Just entertaining enough to never outstay its welcome, 'Bounty Hunters' is a perfect made-by-China imitation of glossy yet superficial Hollywood blockbuster excess)
Review by Gabriel Chong