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The Conmen in Vegas
|     Review #1    |     Review #2    |     availability     |

Andy Lau and Kelly Lin hang at Caeser's Palace in The Conmen in Vegas.

Chinese: 賭俠大戰拉斯維加斯

Year: 1999

Director: Wong Jing  
Action: Bruce Law Lai-Yin  
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Kelly Lin, Yuk Fong, Alex Man Chi-Leung, Li Fei, Wong Jing
The Skinny: Entertaining, uneven and borderline tasteless. Yes, Wong Jing has returned for more gambling action and comedy. Andy Lau stars with even more buxom ingénues along for the ride.
by Kozo:

Sequel to last year’s unexceptional The Conman hits the road for a journey to Las Vegas, gambling capital of the known universe. Since last time, King (Andy Lau) has been dumped by his girlfriend (Athena Chu, who doesn’t return for this installment) but continues to use chicanery to win at the tables. He hooks up with usual cohort Dragon (Nick Cheung) and Dragon’s cousin Nat (Nat Chan Bak-Cheung) on some scores, but Dragon gets caught and King and Nat have to bail him out.

Luckily, our heroes happen into the money by working for the Chinese government. It seems that the PRC higher-ups are cooperating with the FBI to capture bastard gambling tycoon Peter Chu (Alex Man), who robbed about $4 billion from the motherland. King and Nat hightail it for Sin City with an elaborate plan to capture Peter Chu. Along the way they gamble, engage in shtick and meet up with two comely Taiwanese girls (Kelly Lin and Yuk Fong) who end up helping them. 

Wong Jing’s usual formula is present here: gambling, wacky shtick, a big Sky King star and hot babes who always have an excuse to strip to their skivvies. The gambling is toned down this time, and the action and comedy are moved up a notch. Ultimately, the movie is total crap but it’s also somewhat entertaining. Sure, a lot of the movie makes no sense and the acting sucks at times, but relax! Take a rest! Go brain dead and you could enjoy this airy summer movie.

Andy Lau is his usual self, but thankfully less stiff than he was in the first film. Newcomer Kelly Lin is Wong Jing’s new poster girl, and she fits the bill (and her bra) quite nicely. I’ve been critical of HK Cinema lately, saying that it really needs to reinvent itself. That assertion still stands, but if stuff like Conman in Vegas is what audiences want, then what can you do? Not bad if you’re bored and sadly, I was. (Kozo 1999)

Alternate Review
Review by

Reprising their roles from 1998's The Conman, Andy Lau and Nick Cheung ham it up in this so-so sequel and one-millionth variation on the HK gambling film. As in the first film, the famed card sharper King (Andy Lau) teams up with his eager sidekick Dragon (Nick Cheung) and new guy Nat (Nat Chan Bak-Cheung) to swindle mean, old rich people out of their money. But the trio's luck runs out when Dragon is captured by a disgruntled mark.

In a setup that would only happen in a movie, Chinese officials recruit King and Nat to bring back Peter Chu (Alex Man), a gambling jerk-off who scammed the government out of a considerable amount of dough. For their efforts, King and Nat will get a percentage of the recovered money, which would enable them to save their kidnapped pal. In Las Vegas, they befriend two hot chicks (Kelly Lin and Yuk Fong), both of whom agree to help the conmen with their plan. Hilarity ensues...sorta.

To its credit, The Conmen in Vegas eschews the original Conman's failed bid for respectability and instead tries to tickle the viewer's funny bone. But though humorous in spots, the film's main problem is that it doesn't commit to the comedy, and instead pauses from time to time to take a "dramatic" timeout. Believe me, it's hard to take a movie seriously when a scene contains one of the following: a reality-busting Ring parody, Wong Jing with a jheri curl, elastic nipples, and, wait for it, a "dick cam." You should not be surprised to hear that this is a Wong Jing production.

Sometimes good performances can save poorly constructed films. Not this time. As is customary, Andy Lau is cool as the suave King, but he's poorly used here. Unfortunately, Nick Cheung's role is reduced to what amounts to no more than a cameo, and Nat Chan, though mildly amusing, is no substitute. Filling in for the departed Athena Chu (Her character went to Canada. Yeah, you heard me.), Kelly Lin handles her role well enough. Lin's seduction scene with Andy Lau is admittedly sensual, but reality-wise, it's awfully ridiculous (A strobe light suddenly flashing in a hotel room? Come on!).

You would think that every conman film in the world would aspire to have an ending in league with that of the Robert Redford-Paul Newman vehicle The Sting. But this film's final payoff is terribly forced, pretty predictable, and totally ludicrous. When will filmmakers learn that a twist only works if it makes sense within the story? If you're going to make a gambling movie at least do it with some semblance of style and inventiveness. Part of me really wishes that Andy Lau would make one more of these flicks, but rid himself of Wong Jing. If only a serious HK director would come along and revitalize the gambling flick with a distinctive visual flair and a keen sense of storytelling. Maybe then, Hong Kong film would rise from the ashes. Or am I just conning myself? (Calvin McMillin, 2002)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of Mei Ah Laser Disc Co., Ltd. Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen