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Combine a Godfather-style opening wedding, a baffling robot romance, bomb threats, Michael Bay levels of product placement, fat jokes, stormtroopers (maybe?) and cheap stunt casting (“Gangnam Style” singer and worldwide fad Psy) — as a start — and the result is the overstuffed, nonsensical and long-dead horse From Vegas to Macau III, the latest in exploitation master Wong Jing’s self-referential (or self-parodying) gambling romp. Coming nowhere near Las Vegas and free of original co-star Nicholas Tse (who was smart enough to get out after the first film), the retro charm of the original is gone, and left in its wake is a bloated mess of loosely connected “comic” vignettes rigged to exploit the Lunar New Year holiday and depressed audience expectations. Proving to be a case of diminishing returns, From Vegas to Macau III is likely to be greeted by disinterested overseas audiences and little in the way of a life beyond China and Hong Kong. Hopefully, this will be the franchise’s death knell.
Where to begin? FVTMIII picks up shortly after the events of Part Two in Thailand — something about embezzlement, an accountant’s testimony and rekindled romance — and like the Fast & Furious franchise, it has almost completely lost sight of its original DNA: it’s a gambling movie. This time around, the childlike and possibly hypnotized (and most definitely grating) Ken Shek (Chow Yun-fat in a degrading role) is whining about losing his daughter on her wedding day when his arch-nemesis JC (pop superstar Jacky Cheung, also demeaned) sends a bomb disguised as Andy Lau’s God of Gamblers character Michael Chan to the ceremony (mentioning what hotel the wedding is at would only play into Wong’s product-placement hands). Cue the arrival of Interpol (the world’s most misunderstood police force) muttering something about a gun-smuggling ring and it’s off to Singapore with the real Michael (strike three for pop-pantheon dignity) to … do something. Meanwhile, JC has the love of Ken’s life, Molly (Carina Lau), suspended in a giant bubble in his mad scientist’s lair following her plunge from a plane in Part Two and the accountant Mark (Nick Cheung) is hanging around to irritate Michael’s ass-kicking sister Aunt-aunt (Li Yuchun).
The level of inanity and utter lack of narrative glue in FVTMIII is astounding, and writer-director Wong has stooped to new levels of desperation in building a coherent tale (he fails). When the alleged story runs into a dead end, Wong throws in a musical interlude to patch up the holes. Limping from one scene to the next, the audience is treated to an infantilized Ken weeping over his daughter, a prison sing-along more suited to YouTube, a Q-style weapons demonstration (for what is never quite clear), an Andy Lau karaoke moment and, finally, in a stroke of filmmaking zaniness for the ages, a robot love story tinged with the threat of rape. Nice. For the kids in the theaters for the holidays is a final boss fight among a gang of boss-lair robot sentries (I think) that look like the cartoons or video game avatars they are. In a final demonstration that Wong is officially out of ideas for the Macau franchise, Ko Chun, Chow’s Gamblers character, is back, working for the police. Oh, and there’s one gambling face-off featuring JC, Ken and Psy, pouring on the obnoxious.
The largely Hong Kong-based production crew keeps the surface gloss professional and the lion’s share of the technical specs are strong. But Wong and Co. go even heavier on the slapsticky antics in sequences that consistently drag on for too long. No longer the fun romp the first film began life as, From Vegas to Macau III has turned into a chore.
Production company: Mega-vision Project Workshop, Bona Film Group, Media Asia, Sun Entertainment Culture, Shaw Brothers Pictures, Infinitus Group
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau, Nick Cheung, Li Yuchun, Jacky Cheung, Charles Heung, Jacky Heung, Shawn Yue, Kimmy Tong, Carina Lau
Director: Wong Jing, Andrew Lau
Screenwriter: Wong Jing
Producer: Wong Jing, Connie Wong,
Executive producer: Yu Dong, Peter Lam, Charles Heung, Alex Dong, Chau Cheok-wah, Li Anxiu, Chen Guoqiang
Director of photography: Andrew Lau, Cho Man-keung
Production designer: Andrew Cheuk
Costume designer: William Chang
Editor: Azrael Chung
Music: Chan Kwong-wing, Yu Peng
World sales: Mega-vision Project Workshop
In Cantonese and Mandarin
Not rated, 113 minutes
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