AKA: The Man from Macau
Director: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Producer: Andrew Lau, Don Yu Dong
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Nicholas Tse Ting Fung, Sally Jing Tian, Kimmy Tong Fei, Chapman To Man Chat, Max Zhang Jin, Philip Ng Wan Lung, Hui Siu Hung, Natalie Meng Yao, Gao Hu, Sammy Sum Chun Hin, Yue Chi Ming
Running Time: 94 min.
The Man from Macau (aka From Vegas to Macau) stars Chow Yun-Fat (The Monkey King) as “Magic Hands” Ken, a highly-skilled, legendary gambler (conman) with lightning fast hands and the ability to literally “feel” the suits on the cards.
The film reunites Chow with prolific writer/producer/director Wong Jing. There are obvious similarities between Chow’s character Ken, and another legendary character, Ko Chun, from the God of Gamblers (1989) and Return of God of Gamblers (1994) – two titles made famous by Chow and Jing. The similarities are a recurring gag that alludes throughout The Man from Macau.
The plot is simple. Ken, along with Cool (Nicholas Tse from The Bullet Vanishes) and his cousin Carl (Chapman To from Men Suddenly in Black), get caught up in espionage and danger when they unwittingly become involved in bringing down a money-laundering criminal named Mr. Ko (Hu Gao from The Bullet Vanishes), the head of DOA.
The Man from Macau is heavy on slow motion, CGI and slapstick comedy. The cinematography and sound are top notch. The set design is impeccable; especially Ken’s home, which used to be a Portuguese library with its high vaulted ceiling, beautiful wood bookcases, eclectic hardwood floor, and thin curved metal staircases. The film is visually dazzling with its flying dice and semi-levitating/gold-plated cards being flung around like shiruken (ninja stars).
Most of the comedy involves Chapman To. As usual, he’s unny in a nonsensical way. Unfortunately, his scenes don’t add much to the overall flow, as he repeatedly shouts “production by Wong Jing” throughout the film.
Tse’s character looks disinterested throughout much of the film. He’s just there looking bored. Despite being a capable actor, his character is very under-developed. He yearns to become Ken’s protégé and son-in-law, but these two thematic elements could have been explored a bit more. Instead, they were superficial and went nowhere.
Max Zhang (from The Grandmaster) as Ko’s bodyguard/assassin is a very proficient wushu practitioner and his skills are evident in his fight scenes with Lionel (Phillip Ng from Bodyguards and Assassins). Unfortunately, Zhang is given very little to do nor say other than trying to look menacing.
The choreography by Nicky Lee (Chung Chi Li) and Wong Wai-Leung are pretty good. One of the highlights: A scene where Rainbow bounces around on two giant cables, a la Cirque du Soleil-style. However, any action scene involving Tse looked rehearsed, ineffective and weak.
I am a big fan of Chow and had high expectations when I heard he was reuniting with Jing. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. The Man from Macau could have been so much more with the talents of Chow, Tse, To and Hui. Yet, the sum of its part do not equal to the end result of this hodgepodge of sight gags, farce comedy, dull plot and uninspiring characters.
Chow is in fine form as Ken and looks dapper in every scene, courtesy of costume design by Chan Chi-Man and Jessie Dai. A chameleon of an actor, Chow easily switches between comedy and drama effortlessly in the film. He even sings and dances with Benz Hui, which is a breath of fresh air. Yet, even Chow couldn’t save the movie.
Other than Ken, all the other characters are one-dimensional. Ko would have been an excellent adversary for Ken, had Jing given his character more to do, rather than just posturing aimlessly from one scene to another. Kimmy Tong (from The Last Tycoon) as Ken’s daughter, Rainbow, is very pretty and a decent actress. I would have loved to see more of her on screen. Unfortunately, she and the other China-based actors have very little screen time, as their characters are merely accessories.
The Man from Macau is a classic Wong Jing production with stylized images and great cinematography, but the script is weak and formulaic. Obligatory gambling scenes are too few and far in between. They could have been utilized to add more substance to the film. Same goes for the fight scenes.
Nonetheless, it’s good to see Chow in action again. I wanted so much to recommend the movie, but can’t.
Oneleaf’s Rating: 5/10