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22 December 2009 | Raffles Convention Centre

Jay Chou’s latest movie “The Treasure Hunter” comes from the same group of people who did easily the worst movie of his acting career, the 2008 stinker “Kung Fu Dunk”. Consider this as fair warning if you intend to watch the film, because as our reviewer found out, you’ll find that it’s no treasure either.

Perhaps to compensate for the likely bad word-of-mouth, director Kevin Chu was all-ready at the press conference in Singapore to extol the movie’s virtues. “It has an attractive-looking cast, magnificent backdrop, impressive computer-generated effects,” said Chu. “So everyone should go ahead and catch the movie.”

It was a point he made thrice while speaking to the press. To promote the movie opening in cinemas 31st Dec, Chu was in town with the film’s stars Jay Chou and Lin Chiling. As Chu revealed, it wasn’t rocket science why he chose to pair Chou and Chiling. “They are the hottest stars in Asia now, so it’s only logical that we would approach them to star in this movie,” he said.

In that regard, he was right. It also explains why he was able to find US$15 mil for his venture, a large production that consisted of extensive CGI and exclusive location shooting- in the deserts of Yinchuan and Zhongwei in Mainland China. And it turned out to be an experience that Jay Chou and Lin Chiling took home fond memories of.

“I recall that after we wrapped filming for the day, I would jump on the motorbike and ride all the way out into the desert, though I was always thinking what if I actually ran out of gas and ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “But the feeling of being alone all by myself out in the big, open desert really made me feel very much like my character in the movie and a part of the place.”

Likewise, Lin Chiling also took home many fond memories from filming this movie. “The best part for me was actually the journey there,” she said. “We had to take a five hour bus ride to where we were filming in the desert, and this was a place that you couldn’t explore on your own. On the way there, I remember looking out of the bus around me and thinking to myself how beautiful it looked.”

“I think any actor/actress would gladly be a part of such a production,” she added- never mind that the tall leggy model had to go on for two days without bathing while filming and endure a constant garnish of sand in her lunchboxes. But it was all worth it, she said of the inconveniences and difficulties she had to put up with during the shoot.

Chiling’s role in “The Treasure Hunter” as novelist Lan Ting is only her second big-screen appearance, coming after her debut in John Woo’s “Red Cliff”. But the two roles couldn’t be more different- unlike the loyal, dutiful wife to Tony Leung’s Zhou Yu that she played in “Red Cliff”, Chiling is here the popular novelist turned fearless adventurer. That however did not daunt the star from performing her own stunts for the film which impressed both her co-star and her director.

“For someone without any martial arts background, her ability to master those stunts within such a short span of time was really admirable,” said Jay Chou. “The funny thing is when I was rehearsing with a double for that difficult scene, I actually got injured. But when Chiling stepped in, there was no such problem- which made me wonder who was supposed to be the double.” What made it even more impressive was that Chiling did not have time to train since it was only decided two-thirds into filming that she was to have her own action scene.

Just as deserving of praise for his martial arts prowess is none other than Jay Chou. Chiling in turn praised her co-star for his hard work to perfect the stunts he had to perform for the movie. “He would work hard to bring his own inputs to the set and talk to [director] Chu about incorporating them into the movie,” she said. And having directed Chou in “Kung Fu Dunk”, Chu complimented Jay Chou for his kung fu, saying that it had improved tremendously since their previous movie.

This is another reason, he is quick to emphasize, that audiences should go out and catch “The Treasure Hunter”- that and the romance between Jay Chou and Lin Chiling’s characters, the beautiful backdrop against which the movie was filmed, and the exciting CG effects. But a broken tune is a broken tune no matter how many times you sing it, and a film that’s is less treasure than trash can’t turn into gold no matter how many times you say it is.

The Treasure Hunter opens 31 December 2009 and is reviewed here

Report : Gabriel Chong | Photos : Linus Tee
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