Undiscovered Tomb (2002)

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undiscovered tomb poster

Director: Douglas Kung

Starring: Marsha Yuan, Yoko Shimada, Siu Lung Sik, Ken Wong, Jin Zhang, Ashton Chen, Miyuki Koinuma

90 Minutes

Undiscovered Tomb tells the story of Chong (Marsha Yuan) and Mandy (Koinuma Miyuki) adopted sisters learning the art of archaeology from their adopted mother and mentor Professor Chen (Yoko Shimada). When an ancient statue leads to a clue about a legendary treasure, they set off into the wilderness to search for it. Along the way they pick up a streetwise guide, simply named Kid (Ashton Chen), and a young archaeology student Li (Ken Wong). As they get closer to their goal, they encounter competing treasure hunters, hostile locals, and the perils of the wilderness: all standing in their way. Will they be able to discover the treasure and unlock the secret hidden for thousands of years?

Where do I begin? The film is obviously one of those quickie movies shot on a low budget with a cookie cutter script. It does try to cover this up a bit by including some decent, for the time, visual effects, but it still doesn’t really convince anyone that there is a huge snake attacking. Cheesy dialogue and little to no character development really make you indifferent to the character’s trials. Direction is amateurish with little camera movement though this helps when looking at the surprisingly good fight scenes. To break up the moments of action, there are some terrible jokes, bordering on racist. Nothing say like Takeshi Kaneshiro in Burger Cop, but it’s unnecessary and pointless.

Marsha Yuan, daughter of the legendary Cheng Pei Pei, is the real star of the film. She fares better than pretty much everyone in the film and while her acting isn’t great, it should be noted that this was her first film. Where she shines though is her physical performance, as she does a majority of her own stunts and fight sequences, of which there are a large number. She really looks good on screen and it’s a shame the film isn’t better to help her a bit. Japanese actress Koinuma Miyuki also has some decent fight scenes, though it is unclear how much was actually her versus a double. Her character is astoundingly annoying however, presumably in an attempt to make Marsha’s character seem cooler and infuse some humor into the picture.

Music is totally forgettable, with some notes seemingly resembling a score I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I doubt I’ll throw the disc back in to discover the song. As hinted earlier, where the film gets better is in the fight scenes. The actors have long and intricately choreographed fights and the one in the ‘Undiscovered Tomb’ is very solid. This particular fight is punctuated by some very painful looking falls, which made me appreciate the red trousers at work.

Undiscovered Tomb is one of really disappointing to average HK action films. Lifting elements from Armour of God, Indiana Jones, and more recently, Tomb Raider and the Mummy films, Undiscovered Tomb is a mish mash of clichés, bad acting, and a ‘what the hell?’ type ending. There are some very solid fight scenes and Marsha Yuan had to chops to become a female action star in my opinion, but it seems in the years since this film, she has gone a different route. In the end, Undiscovered Tomb probably isn’t worth most people’s time. Check it out if you subscribe to the ‘so bad it’s good’ school of thought.

You May enjoy the film if you liked: Stone Age Warriors, Tomb Raider, The Touch, Dr. Wai

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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