Chow Yun-Fat's unparalleled charisma and his buddy chemistry with Nick Cheung make Wong Jing's fast, funny and often witty action caper a sheer delight from start to finish
More than two decades after his iconic 'God of Gamblers', Wong Jing struck action-comedy gold at the box office last year with his unofficial reboot reuniting with its charismatic (and inimitable) star Chow Yun-Fat. That frenetic but frequently funny 'From Vegas to Macau' was also Chow's first bona fide Hong Kong movie in years, re- establishing him as one of the territory's most versatile performers after a series of Hollywood missteps and another equally uninspiring string of stodgy Mainland period epics. And if expectations are even higher this time round, well we're glad to say that the sequel is not only bigger than its predecessor in most respects, it is for the most part also better in story, character, action, and most of all, humour.
Continuing where the previous film left off, Ken (Chow Yun-Fat) is once again approached by the authorities – this time the Interpol – to assist in apprehending the true mastermind of the international criminal organisation DOA. Turns out that Mr Ko (Gao Hu) which he helped take down wasn't the head of the organisation; that (infamous) honour belongs to a Japanese lady known as Aoi, who has evaded the authorities by building her headquarters on board her personal A380. Though initially reluctant, Ken eventually agrees in part to protect his former disciple and current Interpol agent Vincent (Shawn Yue) – notwithstanding that the unexpected appearance of an old flame Molly (Carina Lau) whom he still loves deeply might have changed his mind as well.
The much-touted chemistry between Chow Yun-Fat and Carina Lau may be cause to be excited, but what truly gives this sequel its ace is Chow's other (and male) co-star Nick Cheung.
Playing an accountant named Mark for the DOA, Cheung turns the second half of the movie into an excellent buddy comedy with Chow. In fact, Wong Jing knows exactly how to play his cards, and so after setting up the necessary to introduce us to Mark and then to do likewise for Ken, he pretty much lets the two male actors carry the weight of the entire film. It may be Chow and Cheung's first collaboration together, but both actors play off each other like old pros. At an illegal casino operated by the local mafia and managed by his 'White Storm' transsexual co-star Poyd, Cheung does a hilarious impersonation of Chow's alter-ego Ko Chun from 'God of Gamblers' – complete with black trenchcoat, jade ring and a bar of chocolate – such that their little switcheroo is utterly laugh-out- loud.
Next to Cheung, Lau plays Chow's former lover a little too stoically – indeed, it says a lot when Chow seems to be having a better time with his mechanical butler named Robot, a curious human-sized contraception that can pretty much do anything a personal servant can, from laundry to making tea to even a massage. A late upgrade even (literally) transforms Robot into an 'Autobot', fending off bullets from Aoi's goons when they pay a visit to his 'house of traps' – you'll recall from the earlier movie that Ken already had such a proclivity for booby-trapping his place. Other than watch Chow embarrass himself at Muay Thai and taking a brief island sojourn immediately after, Lau doesn't get much time to rekindle (or kindle) her love for Chow in the movie; thankfully, a twist at the end somewhat redeems (and explains) her icy demeanour.
Compared to their scenes together, the rest of the film unfolds with the usual Wong Jing bombast. Clearly given a much huger budget, Wong Jing ups the stakes in every conceivable way. Opening with a shootout on the high seas where Ken is greeted by bikini girls with guns in jet-powered flippers, Wong Jing proceeds to blow up an entire low- rise apartment building in Bangkok and shortly after almost completely annihilate an Interpol team at their safe house with drones, machine guns and even RPGs. Certainly, that is the attitude with which Wong Jing has approached the jaw-dropping climax, which sees Chow and Cheung transported via helicopter in an elevator cab to Aoi's fortress in the skies.
Yet, even though there are plenty of visual distractions, Wong Jing wisely keeps the movie focused squarely on Chow. He is its very lifeblood, its very heart and soul, and even though not all of Wong's jokes hit the mark, Chow's comic timing every single time is absolutely impeccable. He knows just the right tongue-in-cheek tone to take with each line, such that no dialogue or scene ends up being caricature. Besides Cheung and Lau, Wong also surprises fans of old- school Hong Kong cinema with a brief scene of Chow at the mah-jong table with Eric Tsang, Natalis Chan, and himself. Still, nothing can quite prepare you for the final tease, which not only sees Chow reprise his 'God of Gamblers' get-up but also introduce Andy Lau as Ko Chun's disciple for a 'blast from the past' that is worth the price of admission alone – and sets up the possibility of a sequel we already are standing in line for.
There is no doubt from the trailer that 'From Vegas to Macau 2' is bigger in scale than its predecessor was, but the introduction of new characters and concomitantly new cast members Nick Cheung and Carina Lau have certainly added vim and vigour that Chow's previous co- stars Nicholas Tse and Chapman To lacked. Wong Jing is also at the top of his game both as a scriptwriter and as a director, clearly benefitting from his producer Lau's own instincts as a filmmaker. And yet this film cannot be without Chow, whose unparalleled charisma and charm is its undisputed winning formula - on sheer entertainment value alone, Wong Jing's fast, funny and witty action crime comedy caper is the best Lunar New Year film we've seen this year.
5 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this