Director: Wong Jing
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Nicholas Tse, Chapman To, Jing Tian, Gao Hu, Annie Wu, Michael Wong, Max Zhang, Philip Ng, Meng Yao
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language And Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 30 January 2014
Synopsis: Super Hacker “Show Hand” (Nicholas Tse) and Karl (Chapman To) went to Las Vegas with their mentor, the retired swindler, Benz. They were there to visit Benz’s old buddy Hendrick (Chow Yun Fat), a renowned master-level conman who left behind his troubled past to work as a Security Consultant for a casino…
Chow Yun Fat has not been this funny, or charming, or all-round entertaining in a long while as he is in ‘From Vegas to Macau’, and that alone is reason enough to make a beeline for this caper comedy during the Lunar New Year holiday. Touted as the long-awaited reunion between Chow and Wong Jing in a gambling-themed action comedy since their hugely successful ‘God of Gamblers’ series in the 1990s, it also sees Wong at his slapstick best, and that is saying a lot for the prolific filmmaker who has been known more for the quantity of his output than for quality.
In a role that bears many similarities to his iconic ‘Ko Chun’ from ‘God of Gamblers’, Chow is the legendary gambler Ken who is renowned for his ability to read cards simply by touching them. Dubbed ‘Magic Hands’, the former Las Vegas Chief Security Consultant has returned to Macau to be with friends and family to celebrate his birthday, as well as to find a love interest for his only daughter Rainbow (Kimmy Tong). But Ken isn’t just a replica of Ko (as the hilarious epilogue will also make a point about); instead, the former is also a prankster, and unlike his predecessor, has a madcap sense of humour.
Truth be told, Chow doesn’t appear until almost 20 minutes into the movie, which teases his entry by first introducing its supporting acts. Chow’s co-stars here are Nicholas Tse and Chapman To, whom together with the former’s father and the latter’s uncle played by Hui Shiu Hung, are a team of swindlers out to rob the rich to return a piece of justice (and hopefully some cash along with it) to the poor. Benz (Shiu Hong) is an old friend of Ken’s, and brings Cool (Tse) and Karl (To) along for the latter’s lavish birthday bash held at the Venetian Macau no less.
As with most Wong Jing action comedies, there is a lot going on at the same time. On one hand, you have Karl having the hots for Rainbow even as the latter (and we might add her father Ken) has her eye on Cool. On another, you have both Cool and Karl trying to convince Ken to take them under his wing as his disciples. But what really puts a spin on things is the addition of the villainous Mr Ko (Hugh Gao), the leader of a money laundering organisation that Cool’s stepbrother Lionel (Philip Ng) was an undercover agent in just before his untimely death. Long story short, Ken, Cool and Karl find a common enemy in Mr Ko, setting the stakes for an action-packed finale set on board a luxurious cruise vessel.
One can certainly criticise Wong Jing for the slapdash manner in which he flits between the various elements, but in the case of ‘From Vegas to Macau’, there is a zany energy with which he combines them for maximum crowd-pleasing entertainment. Lest it be any surprise, Wong has never been one to pay careful attention to plot and/or character development; instead, like a much more sophisticated Jack Neo, he isn’t afraid to cut straight to the punch line if necessary, which also explains why certain subplots or characters even are presented but never really expounded - like Chapman To’s Karl, who is pretty much absent in the last third of the movie.
Thankfully, Wong Jing’s comedic senses are at his sharpest here, so you’ll likely be more than willing to overlook the obvious flaws in the story department. Ken’s entry could not be more delightful with a hilarious game of poker between him and an arrogant challenger (played by Patrick Keung) as well as an obviously rigged lucky draw competition in order to engineer a match-up between his daughter Rainbow and Cool. There are also some good laughs to be had with the running jokes in the movie, including Ken’s ability to imitate the sounds of gunshot with his mouth and a truth serum that Mr Ko’s henchmen uses to force a confession out of his enemies.
But through it all, Wong Jing’s best lines seem to be reserved for none other than Chow Yun Fat himself, who takes a break from the more serious and dramatic roles of late to indulge in some screwball comedy. To say the change is refreshing is an understatement, for Chow reminds his fans that he has lost none of his charisma or drollness over the years. His timing here is pitch-perfect, and the same can be said of his singing and dancing not once but twice with Benz Hui as well as a former love played by TVB actress Maria Cordero. Indeed, Chow easily upstages all of his younger, more handsome, and prettier co-stars, leaving Tse looking positively wooden and To a somewhat childish one-note act. It is also Chow who anchors the more incredible sequences, most prominently Ken’s ‘killer’ card-throwing skills.
This is through and through Chow’s show, a bravado display of charm and wit that will rekindle the love that his older fans have of him and win him a new generation of younger ones. As with last year’s ‘The Last Tycoon’, Wong Jing seems at his creative best when paired with Chow, and even with the obvious change in tone, both actor and director have lost none of their collaborative spark. Here, they have created an unabashedly entertaining flick that packs action, comedy, romance and espionage into a rollicking package of fun and laughter. It's a perfect throwback to the 'God of Gamblers' series, and also your best bet at a jolly good time at the movies this New Year.
(Chow Yun Fat at his most charismatic and witty and Wong Jing at his funniest and most inspired in a long while - 'From Vegas to Macau' is a must-see action comedy this Chinese New Year)
Review by Gabriel Chong