Treasure Hunt gives credence to the charming French word divertissement so that anybody approaching it will know it is a morsel and not a meal. Critics will find it a near impossible task to put Treasure Hunt into proper genre categories but that is the point of postmodernist Hong Kong cinema - the style is unique because the substance is evasive; the concoction is what counts. The film starts out as a spy thriller, diverting into a modern-day adventure set in the Shaolin Temple in China, and ending up as an airy romance with a touch of fantasy. The postmodernist mode of Hong Kong filmmaking has taken into account all genres that have had commercial relevance in the past (kung fu, spy thrillers) and would have commercial relevance in the present (the love story romance).
Chow Yun-fat plays an ethnic Chinese CIA agent, dispatched by the US government to China, ostensibly to steal national treasure out of the country. He is quartered in the Shaolin Temple where he meets a young woman, Xiao Mei (Wu Chien-lian), recuperating in the temple from some kind of affliction. We soon know what kind: she possesses superhuman powers such as the ability to pass objects through solid walls. The central section in the Shaolin Temple is mostly played for laughs: Chow makes friends with a fat boy monk. He gives him a Gameboy machine and the boy proceeds to recite a litany of brand names from Gucci to Armani. This illustrates how far China has come from her Open Door policy but does it make any sense in terms of the plot? The plot is, in fact, a blown-up non sequitur. As it stands, Treasure Hunt is an enigma in Hong Kong cinema's postmodernist puzzle which offers first class entertainment in a structural and generic maze. The audience revels in the entertainment; none seems to care about being lost in the maze: they know they'll come out in the end.