In 1991, Hong Kong director John Woo made Once a Thief, a heist movie starring the legendary Chow Yun-fat, the late Leslie Chung and the elegant Cherie Chung. Eighteen years later in 2017, Stephen Fung re-imagines the iconic caper film and gives us The Adventurers (we are sure there was a more creative translation of the title before this version got approved).
This action thriller is one of those movies which will have you thinking: “If only I was as fabulous-looking as these people!”
Let’s see. We have 55-year-old Andy Lau (looking as charismatic as ever), who plays a master thief who is on his last adventure to steal some rare jewellery. Psst, he is also out to track down the rat who put him behind bars after a failed heist five years ago. He is accompanied by Yo Yang (Cold War 2, The Crossing), who exudes a different kind of charm as a hacker. Then there is Shu Qi (Mojin: The Lost Legend, The Assassin) who plays an attractive but mysterious femme fatale, who is coincidentally on her last job. You may also have read about her making the news recently for becoming Mrs Fung.
Elsewhere in the mix, there is the underused Zhang Jingchu (Sky on Fire, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) playing Lau’s former fiancée, Eric Tsang (Mad World, Buddy Cops) as a fatherly mobster, and everyone’s favourite Professional Jean Reno (what made him say yes to starring in this flick, we wonder?) as a French policeman tracking down the thieves.
There isn’t really much to say about the storyline – it aims to achieve the same adrenaline rush as Woo’s well-loved film, but fails to score because you can predict how the screenplay will develop as the movie progresses. When the plot twists come along, they feel weary and somewhat contrived. Characterisation isn’t the scriptwriters’ strength as well. Despite the cast’s best attempts to emote, their one-dimensional characters are formulaic and uninteresting.
Luckily for the filmmakers, Lau saves the day with his on-screen presence. The hardworking superstar is evidently making the best out of what he has: he gives it his all to radiate James Bond’s suaveness and Ethan Hunt’s penchant for danger. Lau, who fractured his pelvis in multiple places after falling off a horse in a filming accident earlier in January, obviously has no plans to stop and rest. After a short recuperation period, he is up and about, ready to please his fans with his latest work.
Also fortunately for the movie, Lau’s co-stars are easy on the eyes. Yang, Shu and Zhang have their own fans, and their involvement in this production will attract different viewers. It also helps that the globe-trotting adventure features breathtaking cinematography showcasing Cannes and Prague’s sceneries. The aerial shots bring to mind travel documentaries, but hey – we are not complaining.
Fung, who made his directorial debut with 2004’s Enter the Phoenix, is back helming a movie for the first time after 2012’s Tai Chi 0 and Tai Chi Hero. While it is not a piece of cinematic gem, it is still worth your time if you’d like to spend 107 minutes in the cinema gawking at good-looking stars and awe-inspiring landscapes.