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Issue #135 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES November 25th, 2002

The Touch
(2002; Han Entertainment/Tianjin Film Studio/China Film Co-Production Corporation/Mythical Films/Pandasia Entertainment/Aruze Corporation)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Tin mak chuen kei
Mandarin: Tian mai chuan qi
English: The Legend of Heaven's Pulse

In the wake of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON's tremendous success, Michelle Yeoh Chu-kheng enlisted CTHD cinematographer Peter Pau Tak-hei to both shoot and direct this US$20 million English language fantasy actioner, the first effort from her Mythical Films production company. Yin-fei (Yeoh) is the leader of The Touch, a long-established acrobatic troupe that specializes in martial arts-oriented exhibitions. While she and her colleagues are performing in Qing Dao, master thief Eric (THE THIN RED LINE's Ben Chaplin) is across town relieving his boss, Karl (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II's Richard Roxburgh), of The Heart of Dun Huang, a priceless Chinese artifact. A former member of The Touch, Eric left and used his skills in the underworld but now seeks out Yin, in the hopes that she will let him see a scroll belonging to her late father (a flashback cameo by Winston Chao Wen-hsuan). Within it is information pointing to the location of a Sharira, a relic containing the essence of a Buddhist holy man. Those who possess the Sharira are able to access its incredible powers (just what those might be is never made clear). Unfortunately, Yin-fei's little brother, Yeuk-tong (Brandon Chang Cheuk-nam) and girlfriend Lily (Margaret Wang) take the heart and head off to Dun Huang themselves. Before Yin-fei and Eric can catch up, the teens are waylaid by Karl, who wants the Sharira for himself. Yeuk-tong's acrobatic abilities are required to obtain the object, which rests somewhere in a cave situated near a fiery, booby trap-laden pit.

In contrast to the basics of its genre, THE TOUCH is such a low-energy enterprise, it is unfitting to even call it an adventure; "an excursion into potentially dangerous but reassuringly familiar situations" would be a more accurate delineation. The screenplay by Julien Carbon & Laurent Courtiaud (who previously collaborated on RUNNING OUT OF TIME) and J.D. Zeik (RONIN) is filled with tired situations that arise and resolve themselves in precisely the manner one expects. Chaplin (whose character has spent his entire life in Asia but still seems like a fish out-of-water) and Yeoh fail to convince as former lovers and the latter is so solemn, one longs for her ever-smiling heroine from MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS, a 1987 Indiana Jones clone that offered more thrills, action, and entertainment in two reels than this flatly directed effort can deliver in five. Even with a celebrated choreographer like Phillip Kwok Tsui leading the charge behind the scenes here, the rampant wirework almost entirely lacks the grace and fluidity apparent throughout CTHD. Asia Legend's CGI FX range from mediocre to downright embarrassing, with the climax completely undermined by a digital backdrop scarcely more convincing than a Playstation 2 game. Chaplin and Roxburgh probably enjoyed their vacation but are completely unchallenged and the less said about Dane Clark (SIMON SEZ) and the other comic relief henchmen, the better (why is it that egomanical supervillains always have to fulfil some innate need to display their superiority by choosing lackeys situated eight notches down the food chain?) In what turned out to be his final role, poor Lung Si-hung is forced to mouth phonetic English but the worst embarrassment is saved for the end when some Tibetan monks inexplicably speak English and are subtitled in...English. Even with this incessant (and ultimately, rather depressing) catering to the West, THE TOUCH will not be gracing any American movie screens. Although the FX in the climax are being re-done for the U.S. edition, expect Miramax to either sell a shortened (not a bad idea in this case) and partially re-dubbed version to a cable network like Starz or just dump it sans fanfare on video. Too bad -- this project had a great deal of potential but got everything wrong right from the get-go. Kenneth Tsang Kong and Gabriel Harrison/Hoi Chun-kit co-star.

Cover art courtesy Mega Star.

Michelle Yeoh. Image courtesy Mega Star.

Margaret Wang and Richard Roxburgh. Image courtesy Mega Star.

Ben Chaplin. Image courtesy Mega Star.
Mega Star #MS/DVD/418/HK (Hong Kong label)

Sync Sound English (Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1) and Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0) Language Tracks

Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

12 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With (Tiny) Stills

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (2.33:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

104 Minutes

Contains mild violence and torture, and some mild language

DVD menu courtesy Mega Star.

Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore: PG



Brandon Chang and Michelle Yeoh on the Asia Promotional Tour.
Mega Star has released THE TOUCH as a two-disc set packaged in a cardboard slipcover. The transfer (a very close approximation of the original Super 35 compositions) is not as glossy as one might like and a mild grain is sometimes present but the presentation remains fairly handsome, with very attractive colors during the picturesque Tibet exteriors. The stereo mix is functional but does little to boast the excitement level or Basil Poledouris' routine score. English subtitles are provided for the feature but, unfortunately, there are none for the accompanying Cantonese commentary featuring Yeoh and Pau. There is a smoothly executed layer change at 57:21. Disc 2 serves up the trailer, five minutes of behind-the-scenes clips, a music video highlighting Kelly Chan Wai-lam's end title song, cast/crew bios, and a section showing highlights from the film's Asia Promotional Tour.

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