A meshing of Tomb Raider and Chinese mythology with a dash of The Mummy films takes us on a very dangerous excursion in Mongolia.
The “Mojin Xiaowei” were a trio of tomb raiders who would rob graves to get their on treasures. However, they must follow rules and when an excursion went wrong, the trio decided to make a pact never to return to tomb raiding and fled to New York. Two of the members, Hu Bayi and Wang Kaixuan have resorted to living on the streets hocking fake goods while female member Shirley Yang has become a legal citizen and still has feelings for Hu after a drunken one-night stand. However, Wang is about to somehow bring the trio back to their old days.
Grill, a conman, is asked to bring Wang to a local pub where he meets Mark and Yoko, the loyal followers to cult leader Ying Caihong. Ying has asked Wang to go to Mongolia to find the tomb of a princess. However, the real artifact to be found is the Equinox Flower, which is believed to transcend between the living and the dead. To make matters worse, Hu knows all about the so-called “tomb” as he and Wang have experienced it twenty years ago, which resulted in the death of Hu’s first love, Ding Sitian. Knowing what can transpire, Hu and Shirley decide they have no choice but to follow Wang and stop him from making what could be the biggest mistake of his life.
Based on a novel, director Wuershan brings this film to life that brings up to mind Tomb Raider along with shades of the Mummy franchise with Brendan Fraser. The film’s setting in the late 1980’s makes for it quite well thanks to the cast, notably Chen Kun and Shu Qi as the on-and-off couple Hu Bayi and Shirley Yang.
Chen Kun, who underwent a different look as opposed to his usual model-like looks, is quite fun to watch as Hu Bayi. For those who like the Mummy franchise, Hu Bayi is somewhat reminiscent in terms of attitude and action of Fraser’s Rick O’Connell. However, he tends to make a more serious approach and is quite the puzzle solver, which is where the Chinese mythology, notably that of Ba Gua, comes into play. Shu Qi on the other hand, enjoys the action, but is more of a flawed and scorned woman for the most part. When she starts to call Hu Bayi names, it eventually gets to a point that becomes extremely annoying.
Huang Bo, the third of the Mojin Xiaowei, brings a bit of comic relief as the money hungry Wang, who also still holds a bit of an obsession for living in the past. Xia Yu may seem somewhat annoying as well as Grill, but he actually brings out some funny characterization when he constantly talks just to get on the villains’ good side. Which brings us to Liu Xiao-Qian’s cult leader who spends half of her screen time quiet but spends the other time very concerned as if she has a reason why she wants the Equinox Flower so bad. While Jonathan Kos-Read’s Mark is the type of guy who one can’t wait for to get his demise, Cherry Ngan’s Yoko is quite exciting to watch with her ruthlessness. Angelababy makes the most of her screen time in the flashback scenes as Ding, whose demise cause a sort of constant obsession from both Hu and Wang.
The special effects are nicely done and help enhance the adventure of the trio of heroes. They help bring out both the action and at times the comic relief of the film. You may not necessarily need to know much about Chinese history to enjoy the film as it becomes pretty much explained and helps drive the film.
Mojin: The Lost Legend is a mixed bag of a fun ride that may have some flaws in the characters of Shu Qi and Jonathan Kos-Read, but overall, it is quite enjoyable to watch, especially if you like films such as Tomb Raider and The Mummy franchise.
WFG RATING (Film): B-
A Wanda Media/Wanda Pictures/Huayi Brothers Media Corp./Beijing Enlight Pictures production in association with Meridian Entertainment, Zhejiang Blue Star International, Mongke Tengri Pictures and CKF Pictures. Director: Wuershan. Producers: Chen Kuo-Fu, Jerry Ye, and Wu Xuejun. Writer: Zhang Jialu; based on the novel “Gui Chui Deng” by Tian Xia Ba Chang. Cinematography: Jake Pollock. Editing: Du Yuan.
Cast: Chen Kun, Huang Bo, Shu Qi, Angelababy, Xia Yu, Liu Xiao-Qing, Cherry Ngan, Jonathan Kos-Read.