IF there is ever a movement to cast an Asian James Bond, there really should only be one candidate: Tony Leung Chiu Wai.
Not only is he one of the most internationally recognisable and renowned Asian actors, he also has the acting chops to pull off any genre be it drama, comedy, action or romance.
Case in point, his latest film, Europe Raiders, in which the 56-year-old Hong Kong star oozes the pre-requisite Bond-ian charm, wit and charisma, while looking unbelievably cool in action sequences.
In fact, Leung pretty much single-handedly makes Europe Raiders watchable, as the rest of the movie is a bit of a mess, to be honest.
This sequel to Tokyo Raiders (2000) and Seoul Raiders (2006) sees Leung’s dashing bounty hunter Lin Zaifeng go after a weapon of mass destruction called the ‘Hand Of God’, which was invented by an old target and friend of his, Mercury (George Lam).
When the Hand Of God is stolen by the mysterious Sophie (Du Juan), Lin has to team up with main rival and old flame Wang Chaoying (Tiffany Tang) and a hacker named Rocky (Kris Wu) to retrieve the item.
In terms of plot, that’s pretty much all there is to know.
Sure, are some sub-plots regarding Lin and Wang’s rivalry and unrequited romance, and some shenanigans concerning Mercury’s children and the CIA, but overall, the story isn’t that memorable.
The action sequences are decent, if a bit ludicrous at times, with style taking precedence over substance in some, while others seemingly shoehorned in to add to the runtime (one particular car “chase” moved along so leisurely that it looked like a typical Malaysian Chinese wedding convoy).
The comedic elements definitely work a lot better in this movie compared to the action bits. Director Jingle Ma adds some slapstick touches that hark back to the golden days of Stephen Chow-led Hong Kong comedy, with Lin’s three kung fu sidekicks (played by veteran Hong Kong stars Yuen Chiu, Lau Kar Yung and Lo Meng) standing out. Heck, there’s even a line that references one of Chow’s Journey To The West movies.
Still, it doesn’t help that there is hardly any urgency to the proceedings – despite Sophie setting a 72-hour deadline before she destroys the world, none of the involved parties seemed to be in a hurry to get things done.
Way too much time is spent setting up Lin and Wang’s so-called romantic rivalry, while Rocky doesn’t seem to do anything beyond standing around looking “cool” while waiting for something to happen.
Thank goodness, then, for the tour de force that is Tony Leung Chiu Wai, without whom this movie would have been utterly forgettable.
From the most mundane of scenes to the most ludicrously over-the-top action setpieces (the opening sequence has him snowboarding down a mountain in a luminescent white snowsuit), Leung steals every scene he is in here.
It also helps that he clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously; he is almost permanently smirking throughout the movie, and adopts a slightly jokey tone when it comes to his delivery of lines.
Ma should have just chucked Leung into every scene he filmed, because the movie just take a downhill turn whenever he is not on screen.
If you managed to tolerate Bond flicks like The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day because of Pierce Brosnan, then you should definitely watch Europe Raiders just to watch Leung in action.
The petition for Leung to become the first Asian James Bond starts here.
Director: Jingle Ma
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Kris Wu, Tiffany Tang, Du Juan, George Lam.