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From Vegas to Macau
From Vegas to Macau

Chow Yun-Fat and Nicholas Tse in From Vegas to Macau.
AKA: The Man from Macau
Chinese: 賭城風雲
Year: 2014
Director: Wong Jing, Billy Chung Siu-Hung
Producer: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Connie Wong Nga-Lam
Writer: Wong Jing
Action: Li Chung-Chi

Chow Yun-Fat, Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, Chapman To Man-Chat, Jing Tian, Kimmy Tong Fei, Gao Hu, Hui Siu-Hung, Zhang Jin, Philip Ng Won-Lung, Sammy Sum Chun-Hin, Annie Wu, Michael Wong Mun-Tak, Maria Cordero, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Natalie Meng Yao, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Michelle Hu, Winnie Leung Man-Yi, Ricky Yi Fan-Wai, Candy Yuen Ka-Man, Michael Chan

  The Skinny: Three things make From Vegas to Macau worthwhile: Chow Yun-Fat, Chow Yun-Fat and Chow Yun-Fat. Nicholas Tse and Wong Jing do their part too. A kinder, mainland-friendly gambling film that's big, stupid and very crowd-pleasing. All things considered, we'll take what we can get.
by Kozo:

Wong Jing brings back the gambling film with From Vegas to Macau, and he’s got the biggest and best star possible: Chow Yun-Fat. The man who played Ko Chun in the God of Gamblers films returns to the gaming tables for this Lunar New Year release, but his super-expensive presence is only possible with a bigger budget and China co-production status. Also, to appease the mainland market, Vegas requires content adjustments that make it different from genre classics like God of Gamblers. But given Chow Yun-Fat’s performance, the tradeoff is well worth the price. In Vegas Chow speaks his native Cantonese from beginning to end, plus he cuts loose in that playful, charming and inimitable Chow way – a sight that hasn’t been seen since Jeff Lau’s Treasure Hunt a full twenty years ago. As a consistent film experience, From Vegas to Macau doesn’t measure up, but the nostalgia factor goes a long way in making up for the shortcomings. Basically, From Vegas to Macau is review proof, and only your most vociferous Hong Kong film hater will go home completely unhappy.

The “story”: Cool (Nicholas Tse), his father Benz (Hui Siu-Hung) and cousin Karl (Chapman To) are “Robin Hoods of the Underworld” who steal from bad guys and give to the poor. The three head to Macau to meet Benz’s buddy Ken (Chow Yun-Fat), a former gambling king who’s now a security specialist for casinos, and supposedly has the ability to read cards with only his fingertips. Cool wants to be Ken’s apprentice, but Ken is slow to agree. Complicating matters is Ken’s daughter Rainbow (Kimmy Tong), who lusts after Cool, while Karl lusts after Rainbow and the audience snores at this lame love triangle. Meanwhile, Cool’s half-brother, undercover agent Lionel (Philip Ng), runs afoul of Mr. Ko (Gao Hu), the CEO of D.O.A., the “most professional money laundering company in the world.” Seeking justice, Lionel’s partner Lok Chi-Man (Jing Tian) and Inspector Lee (Michael Wong) ask Ken to beat Mr. Ko at gambling, thus hurting his pride and making him mad, after which the authorities will nail him when he makes the inevitable mistake and seeks revenge. Take a second to process that.

Frankly, Lok Chi-Man and Inspector Lee’s plan could be the dumbest law enforcement strategy ever, though it ends up working better than it should thanks to the coincidental relationship between Lionel, Cool and Ken, plus some fortuitous events that bring a secret spy camera into Rainbow’s possession. Basically, this is one of the most circuitous and ridiculous excuses for a story ever put to film, plus many details are massaged to allow the film to play in China. Ken isn’t an active gambler – he’s a casino employee, and when he does gamble it’s for charity and not personal gain. Cool swindles for justice, and everyone works with the cops to do anything remotely shady. Previously, uncanny gambling victories were explained with intricate chicanery or supernatural power (like in the Stephen Chow God of Gambler films), but here they’re explained with technology or simply not at all. You could handwave this stuff away and say that it doesn’t matter all that much, and it’s fine if you do because that’s what Wong Jing did.

What’s lacking is the rollercoaster of emotions felt in previous Chow Yun-Fat and Wong Jing gambling films. Chow is super charming here, but he never gets to smolder or glower righteously – emotions seen in his previous gambling films that could have raised the intensity in Vegas an extra notch. Compelling motivation is missing in From Vegas to Macau. Sure, one character does die but nobody really seems to care or notice, while others are only briefly threatened with harm. In every single God of Gamblers film featuring Ko Chun (including the prequel starring Leon Lai), he lost a loved one tragically, fell from grace and ultimately clawed his way back to the top. Hell, in 1994’s God of Gamblers’ Return, the bad guy kills Ko Chun’s wife then rips out her unborn fetus and leaves it in a jar for Ko Chun to keep as a souvenir. That’s ugly but also hardcore stuff that pushes your buttons big time. From Vegas to Macau is ace Hong Kong Cinema nostalgia that really only recalls the lighter stuff.

Brush all that aside and what’s left is primo Wong Jing. There are surprising gags and performances aplenty, and having Chow Yun-Fat as the point man cannot be beat. Big stars acting like complete loons was once a primary joy of Hong Kong Cinema, and From Vegas to Macau delightfully obliges. Fat-Gor prances, sings and mugs up a storm, and never once acts like he’s above the material. Nic Tse loosens up a bit in what used to be the Andy Lau role. Tse’s still a bit stiff, but seeing cracks in his normally intense expressions counts as comedy gold. On the distaff side, Jing Tian trumps Kimmy Tong, while 35 year-old Annie Wu makes a rare Hong Kong Cinema appearance as Ken’s longtime assistant and the film’s “old” woman – at least by Wong Jing’s ageist/sexist standards. Michael Wong betrays his fan base by delivering his dialogue almost completely in Cantonese. Weirdly, the weak link is Chapman To, who tries way too hard as the comedy relief in a movie already overloaded with comedy.

From Vegas to Macau has a bit of everything, from action and comedy to singing, gambling, media references and straight-up cinema theft. Wong Jing lifts from many sources, most especially himself, with recycled motifs and plot devices taken from his entire gambling oeuvre plus select Chasing Girls films and probably his summer camp skits. The man knows how to recycle. There’s fighting too; martial artists Philip Kwok and Zhang Jin ably perform Li Chung-Chi’s choreography, and Nic Tse is no slouch either. Gunplay is present in a few scenes, but Chow Yun-Fat eschews guns held akimbo for golden razor-sharp playing cards that he hurls at foes. Nothing that special happens: The good guys win, the bad guys lose and fan service is delivered to delightful and sometimes surprising effect. This is basically a nineties Hong Kong Cinema fun factory watered down for the kinder, gentler mainland market – a concession to be sure, but given the film’s scale and especially its Godzilla-sized star, we should take this gift from the Hong Kong Cinema gods and run for the hills grinning madly. A little Fat-Gor can go a long way. (Kozo, 1/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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