Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Adventurers

I really wish I'd liked this one a bit more; it not only seems to really be right up my alley - I am fond of the entire cast, I like Hong Kong action capers, and I like the French action capers it's channeling - but it played Fenway as well as Boston Common, and while that's probably as much a case of Boston Common being overloaded with Asian films as anything - including this, there are four and a half screens out of 19 showing movies from China, Japan, and South Korea, most on at least their second weeks - I really like seeing those specialty films breaking out like that.

And I wouldn't be shocked if it played pretty well there, I was the only person in the theater for this five minutes or so before showtime, and I wouldn't be totally shocked if people went to Fenway rather than AMC - those that can often do, although I don't think there's that much difference between them. Might have just been not wanting to mess with Boston Common while what was expected to be a far less one-sided protest and counter-protest, with the Park Street station closed when I was heading down there. Certainly makes it tough to judge what the actual audience was.

Aside: As much as the Amazon links on here are basically to break up pages that are just walls since the readers never buy anything, sometimes they're also for my amusement, like finding and adding Switch for this case: Andy Lau and Zhang Jingchu also played a couple that has drifted apart but thrown back together by the theft of a priceless piece of art just four years ago. I admire the heck out of how hard these Hong Kong stars work, but maybe slow down a bit so you're not so obviously repeating yourself (even if these two movies are coming at it from absolutely different angles).

Aside aside: On my way to finding this, I found The Wesley's Mysterious File with Lau and Shu Qi, and how the heck have I never heard of that bit of insanity?

Zong heng si hai (The Adventurers)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 August 2017 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, DCP)

It's kind of fun to have a car chase with Shu Qi doing some reckless driving in Cannes near the start of The Adventurers; as big a star as she is in the China region, her biggest stab at the world audience was The Transporter fifteen years ago, and it's fun to have her outside the trunk for director Stephen Fung's stab at doing something like a Besson-produced medium-sized action movie, even if he's not quite enough to elevate this star-studded picture out of the time-passer category.

It starts with Dan Zhang (Andy Lau Tak-wah) being released from a French prison after serving five years for stealing "The Eye of the Forest" (once part of a priceless necklace called "Gaia" given to China as a gift, now scattered around Europe in three pieces) - from the Louvre, and though he kept his head down, Inspector Pierre Bisette (Jean Reno) confronts him at the gate and has a team follow him. It's a good call even if Dan does shake his tail; his release coincides nicely with "The Wreath of Destiny" being auctioned in Cannes, and he's already got a crew ready to help take it: Hacker Po Chen (Tony Yang Yo-Ning) and con artist/getaway driver Red Ye (Shu). And though that should be the One Last Job, both Dan's mentor "King" Kong (Eric Tsang Chi-wai) and Pierre know that the third part of "Gaia", "The Rope of Life", will be impossible to resist, so while Dan's crew figures out how to get through the state-of-the-art security that Chinese businessman Charlie Law (Sha Yi) has installed in his Czech castle, Pierre recruits Amber Li (Zhang Jingchu), an art historian now working as an insurance investigator, to help track down her former fiance.

Fung and his four co-writers bait the hook fairly well at the start, knowing immediately what makes for a good caper: The opening narration establishes something potentially bigger and more heroic than simple thievery for the crew to aspire to, if they so choose, and while the opening scene of Pierre confronting Dan at the prison gate has been done a million times before, it's a bit of a thrill to see Andy Lau and Jean Reno doing it - they're both crime-film workhorses who know just how to get a little something extra out of this sort of boilerplate, and for fans of both French and Hong Kong genre cinema, it's a thrill to seeing them playing a scene as equals after twenty-odd years of doing similar things on opposite sides of the world. Fung and his collaborators don't particularly look to reinvent the wheel here, but they have enough of a sense of what the audience enjoys about a good caper and how to serve it up well. The story stumbles in some ways - it seems like the film could get a lot more out of what happened five years ago than it does, to the point where Amber seems to be marking time until she's a hostage in the last act - but its storytelling is polished in a good way.

Full review on EFC.

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