Film review: From Vegas to Macau III – Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau in comedy sequel
Wong Jing’s zany, derivative film is packed with stars and special effects, but nothing can paper over its shambolic script, full of half-hearted parody and downright absurdity that’s almost funny
It speaks volumes about China’s booming film market that an established Hong Kong director like Wong Jing – infamous as much for his insults towards the pro-democracy crowd as for his long line of critically derided movies – feels so emboldened as to dismiss his home city for contributing “only one-25th of China’s box office revenues”, as he did at the recent premiere of From Vegas to Macau III.
In a similar breath, it’s thanks to China’s indiscriminate film-goers that this third instalment of the derivative franchise could pay for an enviable cast of superstars and an avalanche of computer-generated effects to conceal the shambolic writing – again courtesy of Wong – at its heart. For all its maker’s condescending posturing, the Lunar New Year comedy comes across as a C-movie that’s been mistakenly bestowed the budget of a tent-pole production.
Chow Yun-fat returns as master gambler Ken Shek, and confusingly also as God of Gamblers’ Ko Chun, though he isn’t the only big name to sully his legacy with this slapstick drivel. As it turns out, after she jumps off a plane to spite on-off lover Ken in From Vegas to Macau II , Molly (Carina Lau Ka-ling) has been rescued by a demented admirer, JC (Jacky Cheung Hok-yau), who is alternately described as an arms trader, a brain scientist and a terrorist to suit the story’s schizophrenic demands.
Mayhem ensues as JC plots to kill Ken and ‘avenge’ Molly; it starts when JC sets a bomb off at the wedding ceremony of Ken’s daughter and protégé. Meanwhile, Ken has also just lost his sanity during a hypnotherapy session ineptly overseen by Mark (Nick Cheung Ka-fai), his ally from the previous film. Help is on its way as Interpol and Andy Lau Tak-wah, reprising his role as God of Gamblers’ Michael, both get involved – but I’ll stop here because a synopsis would be futile.
Random battles among shape-shifting robots – with nods to Transformers and Iron Man – are folded in amid scenes of movie parody so half-hearted that they end up appearing like cheeky rehash of pop culture milestones. Count the films Prison on Fire (1987) and From Beijing with Love (1994), the 1978 TV series The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, and Sam Hui Koon-kit’s Canto-pop classic Legend of the Mahjong Heroes (1985) among the casualties.
Series producer Andrew Lau Wai-keung has been added as a director alongside Wong on this film (with Billy Chung Siu-hung as co-director), but even that injection of know-how fails to instil any sense of logic to the proceedings. Playing like a fever dream of a Hong Kong showbiz enthusiast, From Vegas to Macau III lives and dies by its zaniness; a musical sequence, featuring Andy Lau and a dozen of his replica robots dancing to his own song, is so absurd that it’s almost amusing.
From Vegas to Macau III opened on February 6