'From Vegas to Macau' ("Doh cheung fung wan"): Fantasia Review

From Vegas to Macau Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Fantasia Festival

From Vegas to Macau Still - H 2014

Chow Yun Fat returns to card-sharp comedy

Chow Yun Fat returns to card-sharp comedy

Chow Yun-Fat returns to old turf in Wong Jing's Man From Macau, playing a high-living card sharp not too far removed from the character he made famous in God of Gamblers. (Wong directed that franchise, in addition to a jillion other gaming-centric adventures.) As goofily comic as that film but more action-based, this tongue-in-cheek outing isn't quite funny or outrageous enough to perform theatrically in the West (it was a hit in China), but the actor's fans should receive it well on video.

The star takes a backseat here, benevolently steering the adventures of a youngster called Cool (Nicholas Tse). With his father, Benz (Shiu Hung Hui), and cousin Karl (Chapman To), Cool envisions himself as a "Robin Hood of the Underworld," ripping off gangsters in order to pay the bills for Mom's cancer treatments. But when the three men cross paths with Benz's old pal Ken (Chow), a gambler so skilled and successful he has become a casino consultant, the film loses interest in their capers. Instead, the exposition-heavy script follows a plot in which Ken assists cops pursuing a crime lord who fancies himself a gambling genius.

In slim-cut attire that emphasizes the character's similarities to Cary Grant's in To Catch a Thief, Chow undertakes this new assignment with self-amused flippancy, laughing like a hyena at his own jokes. Ken is less interested in getting the bad guy than in setting Cool up with his pretty daughter, but Wong plays up the crime angle for the sake of numerous nutty set pieces; diverting but unexceptional, the best of these involves a booby-trapped library with an incongruously placed (but convenient) wire-fu harness hanging overhead.

Tse mostly lives up to his character's nickname, not taking the action too seriously, even as Wong piles on spy-film hokum involving a dangerously potent truth serum and a master killer named Ghost Eyes. Viewers may well wish the story would settle down and focus on either Cool's Robin Hood schemes or on high-stakes casino showdowns, but the attention-deficient director-screenwriter cares less about narrative coherence than gags and attitude: Hire Chow and some young blood, pay a CGI team to animate a few superhuman card-shuffling tricks, garnish with self-referential winks to an audience who knows your oeuvre inside out and call it a day.

Production companies: Bona International Film Group, Mega-Vision Project Distribution, Sun Entertainment Culture
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Nicholas Tse, Chapman To, Philip Ng, Kimmy Tong, Shiu Hung Hui
Director-Screenwriter: Wong Jing
Producers: Wai-keung Lau, Wong Jing
Executive producers: Alvin Chow, Alex Tong, Dony Yu
Directors of photography: Man Keung Cho, Man-Ching Ng
Production designer: Andrew Cheuk
Costume designers: Chan Chi-Man, Jessie Dai
Editor: Wai Chiu Chung
Music: Kwong Wing Chan, Yu-peng Chan

No rating, 92 minutes