By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
Wu Ershan’s “Mojin: The Lost Legend” opens with a frantic action sequence inside an ancient tomb. In the far-reaching tradition of Hong Kong cinema, time and gravity seem to work at the whim of the screenwriter (Tianxi Bachang, in this case), and the three leads scrabble about, frozen in mid-air, dodging coffins and other heavy objects, flying splinters, and bright blinding lights.
Then, he wakes up. That is, one of the tomb robbers wakes up. In New York City. No bright lights, no iridescent colors. No daring divine missions. Just the daily dust scrub of Manhattan.
Over the film’s two hours, the two survivors of that fateful day in the tomb, Hu Bayi, played by Chen Kun, and Wang Kaixuan (Huang Bo), travel backward and forward in time. Their appearances, attitudes, ideologies, and philosophies change violently.
They gain and lose and then gain again, the third member of their devastating trio, Ding Sitian (played by Angelababy, a superstar sometimes described as “the Kim Kardashian of China,” although frankly given that she can act, she’s already way out in front of any Kardashian). An action movie must build to a big finish, and this one does. But it bends the rules of the universe, and linear development, to get there.
Unscramble the plot’s progress and it seems standard. The trio plunders tombs. They find themselves in over their heads and they lose Ding. They decamp, perhaps not entirely voluntarily, to New York City. There, a big boss who works for a mysterious bigger boss, pulls them in for one last job. One last big job.
The interactions break down to basics, for both action and comedy. Huang Bo plays the daffy, slightly-less good-looking fellow, awkward in romance, and prone to fits of foul temper, but always good for a laugh. Chen Kun’s dashing, bright-eyed optimism and command play off of this. Ding Sitian, lost for a good portion of the film, comes on hard-nosed, aloof. As for the other female lead, Shu Qi, currently captivating folks in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin,” shows more slyness and more volcanic temper. She’ll butt heads with Chen Kun until, and even after, the two figure out how they feel about each other.
The film allegedly has some serious things to say about tomb-raiding, but I lost any of that in the wild action. Any fan of monsters, mazes, catacombs, hidden fortresses, ancient curses, and obstinate love stories, should be happy to buy a ticket and take the ride. (end)
“Mojin: The Lost Legend” is currently playing at Seattle’s AMC Pacific Place 11 Theater, 600 Pine Street, Pacific Place Mall, Seattle. For more information, check local listings or visit http://wellgousa.com/theatrical/mojin-the-lost-legend.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.