Heroes of the East

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    97 Aces Go Places (1997: Chin Kar-lok: Hong Kong)


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    97 Aces Go Places (1997: Chin Kar-lok: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:29 pm

    "Don't think ashtray dirty man." -- Philay Ho Sik

    The action comedy series Aces Go Places was one of Hong Kong’s most successful movie franchises during the 1980s. Given the penchant for remakes in Hong Kong I am never surprised when films get remade, reworked, another sequel is added or in this case just the name is reused. Other than the fact that the theme song from Aces Go Places can be heard at several times during the film and that this is an action comedy there is no other connection between this and the original movies.

    Occasionally when I watch a movie for the first time I get about 15 minutes into the film and think I should do a review on this movie because I really do not want to watch it a second time. So out comes the notepad.

    Li Lai-shan/Pang Tang/Cherrie Chung (Christy Chung Lai-Tai, The Medallion) is a con-artist who robs/cons rich patrons like Lui Yue-yeung (Francis Ng, Infernal Affairs 2) and gives the money to a convalescent center where her sister (Donna Chu Git-Yee) is staying because of mental issues from her childhood when she saw the brutal murder of her parents. However earlier Lai-shan had conned a massive amount of money in a poker game from a triad head which caused him to have a heart attack. In his will he stated that his son “Philay” Ho Sik (Cantonese music star Alan Tam Wing-lun, Casino Raiders) is to take revenge by killing her with a gun. Little Sik is a wayward son who has no interest in guns or violence. But since he has to he is tutored by Drunken Gun (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Happy Together) a Beggar So type with a gun who is an awful shot when sober but deadly when drunk. Of course “Philay” falls in love with his target. So what will he do when he needs to kill her while she is simultaneously being chased down by Yue-yeung’s thugs?

    This movie contains some of the most hilariously blatant product placements that I have seen. There are two scenes where cans of Pepsi are stacked on top of each of other that have no business being there: on an upstairs floor of a multi-story business building and later in the film stacked in a make-shift place (actually I have no idea what this place was; it was like a large room made in a hanger). When Christy Chung knocks a bad guy into the large stack of cans in the first scene mentioned she then takes a drink out of it with the Pepsi name in full view before she hurls it at another bad guy in disgust for the blatant commercialism.

    The movie is full of in jokes that are hit and miss even if are familiar with them (I had to look up many). An interesting and apparently popular scene with the locals was when Philay was learning target practice and he shoots a poster of Wong Ha-wai an elderly former actress who was in the recent local news (I learned this from Paul Fonoroff’s book “At The Hong Kong Movies”). The next person he shoots was Leslie Cheung who was a singing rival Alan Tam (though I do suspect some of the rivalry was manufactured at the time). There are also a variety of Alan Tam age jokes that probably mean as much to me as Dick Clark age jokes to someone in their teens. Some humor that worked for me was Simon Loui Yu-Yeung’s bad-guy henchman role especially the scene when he was learning how to drive while at the same time hitting on the instructor: “I collect stamps.” Another good one dealt with the handover especially when Francis Ng is forcefully using an outdoor motorized toilet and a couple states “Honey, look, life will be better after 1997” while two tourists are happy about the freedom to excrete in the streets. But I do have a weakness for outdoor motorized toilet gags.

    The stunts are serviceable but the fighting scenes are somewhat forgettable. Christy Chung does a decent job in the fight scenes and does get herself hurt hurling into a table in the last fight scene with Billy Chow, but Billy really has to slow down here (as a counterpoint see him in Fist of Legend with Jet Li). Ultimately for me this film is more mediocre and harmless than dross.

    When thinking of director Chin Kar-lok it is hard not to think of Hal Needham (though ultimately he was much more successful as a directory in terms of box office). Both started as stuntmen, did bit parts, both were successful enough to get promoted to do stunt coordination, and action direction, and both would direct action comedies. While Needham was much more successful in terms of box office, both have an odd sense of broad humor and both are more successful when they focus on the action as opposed to character, dialogue, and anything resembling a joke. Also both Needham and Chin directed films were both not that popular in Hong Kong. This movie would bring in 10 Million HK dollars, killed any chance of a sequel and Chin would only direct one more film in 2002 named No Problem 2. Since this was the last mainstream Hong Kong movie released before the handover perhaps this movie was created to make Mainland change its mind.

    I cannot in good conscious recommend this to anyone. While I would not state it is as bad as some of the published reviews I have read from Paul Fonoroff who states this is an example of the decline of Hong Kong cinema to John Charles who gives it a 1 out of 10 in "The Hong Kong Filmography" there are many other films that need to be seen before this. I would recommend starting with the original five Aces Go Places movies.

    The DVD I have, which I think is the only DVD out there, is the Universe R0 release from 1997. It has Cantonese and Mandarin tracks but what is a little annoying is the Chinese and English subtitles which are not removable. Your extras are the normal Star Files (biographies) and Trailer. The movie was rated IIB (like a US R) in Hong Kong for language only.

    Pepsi anyone:


    No excretion isn't funny:

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