Thursday, 11 February 2016



Your response to this third instalment of the From Vegas To Macau series (previous entries are also referred to as The Man From Macau films, but apparently not this one) will most likely depend on a number of factors. Far from the least of these is some regard for Hong Kong action movies and comedies from the late 80s and early 90s, specifically films of the God Of Gamblers ilk, with all their overblown sentimentality, wild overacting, idiotic slapstick and occasional forays into what we decadent and unsophisticated Westerners might regard as the politically incorrect. Which, as it happens, I do. Secondly, an appreciation of the mighty Chow Yun-Fat: once regarded as The Coolest Man In The World at the time on the back of bullet-heavy Heroic Bloodshed epics like A Better Tomorrow II, Hard Boiled and the genuinely awesome The Killer (all by John Woo), and still at it aged sixty and not looking it (either he's had some fantastic work done or he truly is one of The Immortals amongst us). Not being unduly bothered by a level of CGI that the makers of Sharknado would consider shoddy is probably an advantage as well.

Most importantly, you need at least some idea of the first two movies, which might be difficult given that neither of them have had any official distribution in the UK. However, even if you've watched them in the last week (they are out there on, ahem, "a website") you're going to struggle because the narrative veers wildly between "wayward" and "not giving a toss what you think". From Vegas To Macau III is as loosely plotted a film as you'll ever see, to the extent that even attempting a synopsis is on a par with clearing out the Augean Stables, but briefly it concerns a mad scientist (Jacky Cheung) who has kept alive villainess Molly (Carina Lau) from the second film after she dived from the back of an aeroplane with no parachute. Molly was the old flame of legendary gambler Ken (Chow Yun-Fat) who starts this film in tears at the marriage of his daughter to his protege; the only cure is for him to be hypnotised (by someone doing a Brando/Corleone impression for no good reason) into thinking it's his fat cousin instead. Then an exploding robot duplicate of Andy Lau turns up and Chow ends up in prison for stealing $15 million. They escape, there's a romance between a couple of domestic robots, and they all head off to a casino island with Ken pretending to be Ko Chun (Chow's character from God Of Gamblers).

There are musical numbers, a card game with Psy, a brief dream sequence where a blacked-up Chow is eaten by a dinosaur (!?), a long sequence where he thinks he's the hero of an old kung fu movie, some table tennis, giant flying robots, someone dressed up as Spiderman (again for no good reason) to play a dice game, a custard pie fight and a martial arts sequence where Andy Lau takes on ten robot Andy Laus in the villain's basement. It is all spectacularly stupid and makes no coherent sense whatsoever, leaping from knuckleheaded knockabout to computer-generated action sequences to Chow Yun-Fat mugging furiously to Chow Yun-Fat looking cool in a tux. But there are no moments which suggest actual jeopardy for actual characters (as there were in both previous films); it's winking at the audience so aggressively throughout that you can't take a second of it seriously and it's clear that none of the cast and crew were either. When the traditional blooper reel over the end credits is no different in tone to the actual movie, something's gone awry.

Hong Kong cinema has always been its own beast and has never abided by Hollywood multiplex rules: that's why we like it. But From Vegas To Macau III is so random and uncoordinated, even by the standards of the first two films, that it never hangs together and collapses into a string of odd sequences that aren't nearly as awesome as they should be. Essentially it's got no more substance than a Carry On film; that doesn't mean it's not occasionally amusing, but this isn't even one of the good ones. The end credits suggest a 3D post-conversion, but thankfully the UK cinema release is in Normalvision.


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