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If Tom Cruise can jet around the globe breaking into high-security vaults in his fifties, then so can Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau, or so goes the thinking. The trouble is, Lau doesn’t have the clever machinations of Mission: Impossible or a stellar villain to rival Philip Seymour Hoffman to play with in The Adventurers, the latest brazenly mindless softball by actor-turned-director Stephen Fung. An unapologetic modern rehash of the sunny European adventure of John Woo’s Once a Thief, with a dash of M:I and maybe even a little Fast & Furious for good measure, The Adventurers is every bit as generic as its title, and is unlikely to make anyone forget Chow Yun-fat and Leslie Cheung zipping around Paris. The film might score moderate success at home in Hong Kong despite the distracting dubbing, but most other markets will be a tough sell.
Fung has proved himself to be a competent if conventional director of mainstream entertainments, and has even developed a bit prestige television cred as a producer on AMC’s underrated Into the Badlands. But he falls back into bad habits in The Adventurers, substituting tech porn and been-there, done-that car chases (yes, the drivers yell “Move!” at pedestrians) for creative storytelling. No amount shiny locales and swish European lifestyle product (Ducati! Wineries! Czech castles!) can conceal the film’s fundamental innocuousness, which admittedly may appeal to some viewers. For others, it will simply draw attention to the fact the French characters don’t speak French to each other, and the surprise betrayal isn’t all that surprising.
After a wordy prologue that details the Louvre heist five years earlier that put master thief Dan Zhang (Lau) behind bars, he’s released from Fresnes Prison and welcomed back to the world by his nemesis, French police inspector Pierre (Jean Reno, cashing a cheque). Dan immediately gets up to no good, teaming up with hacker extraordinaire Po Chen (Tony Yang) and wheelwoman Red Ye (Shu Qi) for — wait for it — one last job, this time swiping the Wings of Destiny jewels from a tony Cannes auction. The Wings are one in a three-part jewel set, along with the Eye of the Forest and Rope of Life that make GAIA, the object of the Louvre robbery. Dan almost completed the task for a fatherly gangster, Kong (Eric Tsang), holed up in Prague, so he goes to him to finally finish the job — and find the rat that sold him out. As a bonus, the third piece of the jewelry puzzle is currently in the possession of garden-variety tycoon Charlie Law (Sha Yi), who lives in a castle down the road. The last job for sure this time, Dan goes after the Rope with Pierre (who evidently is like Prince or Cher with his solitary moniker) hot on his heels.
The Adventurers has a template that’s recognizable from the starting gun. It’s one of those movies that relies on everyone doing exactly as expected — a partygoer keeps an easily pilfered invitation card in the inside pocket, trucks block views at the most convenient of times, pretty women turn men into expository fools — and lapses in the most basic logic to make the plot move forward. Really, a high-security vault still has tumblers and dials? In 2017?
The normally charismatic cast doesn’t get much to chew on and thus can’t really lift the film beyond its modest, self-aware station. Lau proves to be just as game as Cruise for late-career action antics, but at this point in time the break-in that demands hovering above laser beams is a tired trope, not a clever bit of derring-do. Shu and Yang can’t sell their tepid romance, and Zhang Jingchu (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) is saddled with the thankless role of the former fiancee who makes really, really stupid decisions. Tsang just stands around glowering. Technical specs are nearly flawless, but if The Adventurers is supposed to be the start of a franchise it needs to be considerably more adventurous.
Production companies: Mannix Pictures, Gravity Pictures, Infinitus
Distributor: Well Go USA
Cast: Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Zhang Jingchu, Tony Yang, Jean Reno, Eric Tsang, Sha Yi
Director: Stephen Fung
Screenwriters: Cheung Chi-Kwong, Lo Yiu-Fai, Ha Zhichao, Huang Xiaozhuang, Stephen Fung
Producers: Terence Chang, Andy Lau
Executive producers: Jiang Wei, Tomas Krejci, Aaron Shershow, Ming Beaver Kwei
Director of photography: Shane Hurlbut
Production designer: Guillaume Amosse
Costume designer: Silver Cheung
Editors: Joel Cox, Angie Lam
Music: Tuomas Kantelinen
Casting: Nancy Nayor
World sales: IM Global
In Cantonese and English
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