From Vegas to Macau [Fantasia 2014]
The god of gamblers is back and craziness ensues
For one unaccustomed to Hong Kong cinema, From Vegas To MacauM can be quite jarring. In North America, comedy is usually situational or dialog-based. This is an action comedy sequel/soft reboot where the comedy comes in the form of pure slapstick, which creates issue with the movie's tone.
To give you an idea, two scenes which I can’t get out of my head: The first is a brutal fight sequence where the loser’s face ends up looking like it was beaten by Hugh Jackman in Prisoners. The other is a pool scene where one of the comedic characters interrupts chiseled Asian men displaying their assets to cheering women and has his nipples pulled and extended a whole meter from his body. To add to the imagery, his nipples are surrounded by enormous circles of thick black hair, while every other spot on his body is bare. This scene had nothing to do with the plot, in case you were wondering.
The plot itself is almost a spoof on Casino Royale where the god of gamblers (Chow Yun Fatt) is asked to help federal police uncover a gambling/money laundering conspiracy, which is taken to extremes since this conspiracy is absolutely bonkers. Not only does it predict sports matches through heat rub lotion (don’t ask) but it’s attended by the head of each country’s criminal empire. There is really a scene where all the biggest bad guys in the world meet in a sealed room and laugh together as they marvel at how evil they are and how much money they will make. You would expect McBane to come out of nowhere and kill them all. The best part is that this practically happens. What follows is an insane action sequence where one man tries to take all these G20 crime lords on and then jumps through the window Matrix Revolutions style.
The film is then set into motion thanks to a teddy bear and a cybernetic eye (as if writing it down helps you follow the plot better). You then get chase sequences, martial arts fights and some gambling, while the god of gamblers and his protégé (played by Nicholas Tse) slowly make it to the villain’s hideout for a climactic showdown.
All of this is interspersed with slapstick comedy which is more at home in America as a Looney Toons cartoon. But it's par for the course in Hong Kong cinema. The editing also goes on LSD at times breaking up the scene in panels, similar to an anime or Ang Lee’s Hulk.
What I enjoyed most about the film was the actors’ dedication. Chow Yun Fat looks so comfortable and happy playing his old role. He really seems to be having a ball and can switch the tone of his performance from serious to slapstick on a dime, which is necessary for a movie such as From Vegas to Macau. I was most impressed that, even though he looks fit and youthful, the film acknowledged his actual age (almost 60), directly telling the audience why it would not be appropriate for a man his age to be courting such younger women, a definite nod to the lack of sensibilities found in James Bond films.
Another actor who completely blew me away was Zhang Jin as the villain’s muscle who comes off as a cross between Jet Li and 90s Johnny Depp. Though the film is a comedy, he plays it totally straight, as if you are watching a hard R kung fu film. It really helped sell the action sequences and once again helped the film manage its schizophrenic tone shifts.
From Vegas to Macau will appear to be an overly zany film to people unaccustomed to Hong Kong cinema. Describing it would sound like the most awesome movie though. Imagine Casino Royale and the Gangum Style video merged into one. Now imagine that lasting for an hour and a half and you can have a clear picture of what you’ll be in for and, more importantly, if you can tolerate it.