AKA: The Man from Macau III
Director: Andrew Lau, Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing, Andrew Lau, Connie Wong
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau, Nick Cheung, Li Yuchun, Jacky Cheung, Carina Lau, Charles Heung, Shawn Yue, Psy, Angela Wang, Jacky Heung, Michelle Hu, David Chiang, Law Kar-ying, Kimmy Tong, Yuen Qiu, Elena Kong, Philip Keung, Derek Tsang, King Kong Lee, Grace Wong, Iris Chung
Running Time: 112 min.
By Martin Sandison
The first two movies in the From Vegas to Macau trilogy were a revelation for Hong Kong cinema fans: immensely entertaining, laugh out loud funny and filled to the brim with well-choreographed action. They also managed to capture the feel and tone of the golden age, without seeming over-referential. I was surprised to see the third installment was coming out in UK cinemas in time for Chinese New Year, as I caught its trailer before seeing Ip Man 3 (which, by the way, had the best end-fight out of all three films!).
The trailer for From Vegas to Macau 3 piqued my fancy – after all, the film reunites Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau for the first time since the original God of Gamblers; it also features Jacky Cheung, Carina Lau and Nick Cheung. Any Hong Kong cinema fan would be salivating over the prospect of so much talent in one film, myself included. If you don’t come out of this movie disappointed, there’s something seriously wrong. I mean seriously.
The first two managed to squeeze in a lot of set pieces, with threadbare plots, but tight narratives. The plot line for From Vegas to Macau 3 manages to be one of the most unoriginal and least interesting films I have ever seen; it’s not even worth summing up in a sentence. So I won’t.
The middle section of the film features Chow, Lau and the two Cheungs sharing the most screen time – even Law Kar Ying makes a reasonably amusing appearance. The funniest running joke appears here as Chow wakes thinking he is Zhang Wu Ji, the main character of the Louis Cha martial art novel Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre. There is even a cut to an old movie, based on the novel, that I didn’t recognise featuring Shek Kin. It’s humurous, but aimed very much at Asian audiences. Despite this, every scene features more and more complete nonsense, and none of it is funny.
From Vegas to Macau and From Vegas to Macau II got serious laughs for their in-jokes and respect for what had gone before; Part III only has perhaps two laugh out loud moments. The calibre of onscreen stars promise so much and deliver so little, with especially Chow and Lau’s interchanges being flat and without merit. Jacky Cheung also seems disinterested and there for the money, which is a shame as his appearances recently have been dwindling in Hong Kong movies.
In an earlier part of the film, Chow is imprisoned and there is a huge song and dance number, which supplies a little entertainment, but is ultimately unsatisfying. Credit must be given to Wong Jing for pulling out all the stops in terms of the cast, as here Maria Cordero, the wonderful Macau-born singer, appears as the prison warden while the cast belts out her famous song “The Light of Friendship” from the classic Ringo Lam-directed and Chow-starring Prison on Fire. I’ll never forget her songs from the latter, City on Fire and Tiger on the Beat. It’s too bad the over-referential and inept nature of the film ruins these legendary appearances.
The filmmaking is poor and derivative, with no excitement to be gleaned from its over reliance on crappy CGI and incoherent action. This brings me to my biggest gripe concerning the film: the action. Despite their quick turnaround, the first two had high quality and well executed gunplay and martial arts. This one substitutes the clear and nicely cut approach of the first two with lazy angles, incredibly short sequences and terrible CGI.
Also, the sets are made to be destroyed, and would look at home in a straight-to-DVD sci-fi movie from the 90’s. In terms of martial arts action, there are two scenes with Jacky Heung Cho taking over the screen fighting. He is the son of Charles Heung, the famous producer and supposed Triad affiliate (I’m sure you guys know all the stories) who also has a cameo in the film. Both fights are over before they begin, and have no fulfillment whatsoever. The ending features Transfomers-esque machines battling, and is really an embarrassment with obsolete effects.
My friend who accompanied me to see From Vegas to Macau 3 told me he read a review of the first two wondering why Chow was ‘lowering himself’ to be in such movies. In my mind, he’s Chow Yun Fat. He can do whatever he wants. Plus, I think it’s cool to see him cutting loose and enjoying himself in the later part of his career. However, all the cast and crew in From Vegas to Macau 3 are probably thinking: what a complete waste of an opportunity, and a testament to the unfortunate trappings of a franchise. Look at Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
There are two scenes that I enjoyed despite this, both featuring gambling. The first is the game of Mah Jong with Yuen Qiu reprising her role as the landlady from Kung Fu Hustle; as well as Lo Hoi Pang, the great character actor from movies as diverse as Sammo’s Iron Fisted Monk and Johnnie To’s PTU. As they play, they sing Sam Hui’s “The Mahjong Heroes,” a masterful 1976 recording from the multi talented actor and singer. The poker game later in the film features the ubiqitous South Korean singer Psy, and it’s a kick to see him and Chow share the screen.
I love Chow Yun Fat. He’s my favourite actor (he has made so many movies that it’s hard to keep up with them all though!). Even he cannot save this mess of a film. One thing about From Vegas to Macau III that did cheer me up was in the end credits, which featured outtakes of the cast having a whale of a time; to be honest, more power to them – they’ve all worked on some of the greatest movies ever made. But if you love these actors, you’re better off not seeing this film.
Martin Sandison’s Rating: 3/10