Director: Stephen Fung
Cast: Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Zhang Jingchu, Yo Yang, Sha Yi, Eric Tsang, Jean Reno
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 31 August 2017
Synopsis: Sophisticated burglar Dan Zhang (Andy Lau) walks out of prison after a three-year term. Dan reunites with his wingman Po (Yo Yang), an expert in computer hacking and weaponry. They are soon joined by Red (Shu Qi), a beautiful and intelligent chameleon. The trio cleverly find their way into a star-studded charity auction and successfully steal priceless jewels under the surveillance of Pierre (Jean Reno), a hard-boiled French detective who sent Dan to jail three years earlier. Dan goes to find help from his surrogate father Kong (Eric Tsang), an unscrupulous and ruthless crime boss who commissioned the heist. Kong assigns Dan a new mission. Meanwhile, Pierre tracks down Amber (Zhang Jingchu), Dan’s girlfriend before he was sent to prison, and convinces her to help him find Dan. From Cannes to Prague across the European continent, Dan and his team search for the jewels while playing a game of cat and mouse with Pierre. As the final confrontation ensues, Dan’s true agenda surfaces...
As far as caper/ heist films are concerned, ‘The Adventurers’ is a breezy, enjoyable but ultimately unremarkable entry to the genre. All the trademark elements are here – the exotic European locations that span Cannes, Prague and Kiev; the impressive high-tech gizmos to override the most sophisticated security systems as well as to get into places no human could ever fit into; and last but not least the code of honour among thieves, which not only drives the narrative but also defines the relationship between our central trio played by Andy Lau, Tony Yang and Shu Qi – yet director and co-writer Stephen Fung’s Chinese makeover of a classic Hollywood staple comes off too familiar and predictable by the time it is done with its double-crosses and shootouts.
The story begins with Lau’s career thief Dan Zhang after a five-year stint in prison for stealing the prized ‘Eye of the Forest’ artefact from the Louvre Museum, which we are informed in a snazzy prologue is one of three pieces that form a precious necklace called ‘GAIA’. Dan is greeted upon his release by the French detective Pierre (Jean Reno), who warns him that he will be closely watched. Shortly after slipping away from one of Pierre’s associates, Dan assembles his wingman Po (Yang) and hotshot recruit Red (Shu Qi) to steal another part of ‘GAIA’ – and it isn’t any spoiler that they eventually make off with the ‘Wings of Destiny’. The third and final piece ‘Rope of Life’ happens to be in the possession of a nouveau riche Chinese oligarch Charlie (Sha Yi) living up in a castle in Prague, and before Dan makes off with it and presumably disappears into the sunset, Pierre brings in Dan’s former fiancée Amber (Zhang Jingchu) to help apprehend him – the latter apparently still being resentful at Dan for not telling her about his criminal profession.
It isn’t hard to guess that Fung has built his movie around a series of action sequences – the posh Cannes hotel where a livid outdoor demonstration against animal fur is taking place at the same time as an auction for the ‘Wings of Destiny’ is ongoing within; the sprawling castle that Dan and Po will infiltrate in order to steal the ‘Rope of Life’ while Red exercises her seductive charms to get Charlie’s fingerprints; a quad chase through the woods surrounding the castle immediately following the break-in; and finally, the climactic showdown in an abandoned factory in Kiev where Dan will confront the person who betrayed him to the authorities five years ag, and where one of the other key players will come to choose his or her loyalty. Each one of these set-pieces is nicely choreographed and expertly executed, although the last one is a little less exciting than it needs to be to end the movie on a thrilling high, paling even in comparison to the earlier ones that precede it.
Whereas the sleekly performed stunts and the impressive gadgetry appeal on a visceral level, it is the characters involved and their stakes which make these sequences emotionally stimulating. Sadly, that is sorely lacking here, which is a result of the sketchy character work. The tension between Dan and Amber is hardly developed before it is resolved; ditto the budding attraction between Po and Red. We are primed for an intriguing cop-versus-robber dynamic between Dan and Pierre, but that sense of respect for the two individuals on diametrically opposite sides of the law is never quite established compellingly. Same goes for the relationship between Dan and his former mentor Kong (Eric Tsang), given how Kong sees Dan as having betrayed him for wanting out to settle down with Amber five years ago. That no less than four writers, including Fung himself, had worked on the script makes it even more disappointing that the characters are so one-dimensional in and of themselves as well as next to one another, relying instead on the sheer chemistry of the actors to give them pizzazz.
Not that the cast isn’t up to it – Lau is as charismatic and suave as he’s ever been, perhaps even more so than Tom Cruise was in any one of the ‘Mission Impossible’ movies; Qi is at her playful and sexy charming best; and character actors Reno and Tsang lend solid supporting turns to anchor the picture. As far as fun is concerned, there is definitely much to embrace in their lively performances. There is also much escapist pleasure to be had watching them elude and delude their way around their targets, often set to a jazzy, upbeat score by Tuomas Kantelinen. And as beautiful as the European locales themselves are, it is also to Shane Hurlbut’s credit that the movie looks as visually gorgeous as it does. Like we said at the start, ‘The Adventurers’ knows the tropes of the genre and performs them flawlessly; but without an engaging plot and/or characters we can root for, it remains a solid but unremarkable entry into the well-trod caper genre.
(The locations are exotic, the cast is pleasing, and the heists slick and exciting; and as long as you're just looking for some breezy but forgettable escapist fun, 'The Adventurers' will do just fine)
Review by Gabriel Chong