The Adventurers (侠盗联盟)

For F*** Magazine


Director : Stephen Fung
Cast : Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Zhang Jingchu, Tony Yang, Jean Reno, Eric Tsang, Sha Yi
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1h 47m
Opens : 31 August 2017
Rating : PG (Some Violence)

After making inroads into Hollywood as an executive producer and director on the TV series Into the Badlands, Stephen Fung is keeping things international with The Adventurers. The caper centres on an elite team of professional thieves, comprising mastermind Zhang (Lau), hacker Xiaobao (Yang) and slinky recruit Ye Hong (Shu). Zhang has just been released from prison, and because his earlier attempt to steal the priceless three-part Gaia necklace was foiled, hatches a new plan to procure the artefact for King Kong (Tsang), Zhang’s mentor. French detective Pierre Bissette (Reno) has been hot on Zhang’s trail, and is watching his every move following Zhang’s release from jail. Pierre convinces Zhang’s former fiancée, art restoration expert Amber (Zhang), to help him track Zhang down. The team’s mission takes them from Cannes, France to Prague, the Czech Republic, where they must foil state-of-the-art security measures to steal the components of the necklace.


The Adventurers is a loose remake of John Woo’s 1991 film Once a Thief. Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung played the trio of thieves in that film, with Lau, Yang and Shu stepping into their shoes here. The Adventurers promises glitz, glamour and pulse-pounding action, but only delivers partway. Taking additional inspiration from the Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible franchises, The Adventurers showcases high-tech gadgetry and scenic locations, but fails to generate sufficient suspense, amounting to a generic “go get the MacGuffin” plot. Action sequences like a car chase down the French Riviera and an All-Terrain Vehicle pursuit through a Czech forest are competently staged, but The Adventurers lacks the daring “Houdini escapes” which have become a trademark of the Mission: Impossible movies. There just isn’t enough here to put audiences on the edge of their seats.

The film is slick and polished, with Fung’s international crew contributing to the fine production values. Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, best known as the guy Christian Bale was yelling at on the set of Terminator: Salvation, captures the European locations in their sweeping, luxe glory. The computer-generated effects are a cut above those often seen in Chinese blockbusters – the spider drones deployed during the climactic sequence are especially impressive. The tone is largely frothy and comedic, and there’s an odd product placement for a novel device called the GoGirl (Google it). While Fung refrains from full-on slapstick, the relaxed vibe hampers the tension from reaching a fever pitch.

The film is well cast, with each of its leads playing to type. Lau, who has played the international man of mystery often in his later career, is convincing as a suave Danny Ocean-type who always has a trick up his sleeve. Shu, who is married to director Fung, tries to affect the ‘tough chick’ shtick ala Michelle Rodriguez and looks to be having fun doing it. Yang is the least remarkable of the trio, and the sexual tension between Xiaobao and Ye Hong is a tired device, but is good for a few laughs. Each character speaks at least a few lines of English dialogue, and the results are mixed. Zhang Jingchu, who was in an actual Mission: Impossible movie, fares best, but her character’s art history knowledge is rarely called upon over the course of the story.

Reno appears to largely be phoning it in, and sticks out a fair bit. There are several scenes in which two French characters are alone looking at security footage or staring agape at an empty vault, but they’re speaking in English. Eric Tsang pops up as a standard-issue Eric Tsang character. Sha Yi nearly steals the show as a wealthy mark who lives in a Czech castle, and on whom Ye Hong works her charms.

As a production of Flagship Pictures, Warner Bros.’ joint venture with China Media Capital, the intention is for The Adventurers to be a blockbuster that can travel. While it’s slickly produced and is bereft of the cringe-inducing excess that often plagues big-budget Chinese movies, The Adventurers stops short of being explosive entertainment, and is a trifle rather than a blast.

Summary: The Adventurers has charismatic leads, gorgeous European locations and strong production values, but its ho-hum caper plot and lack of distinctive action sequences keep it from being Grade A escapism.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Shock Wave (拆彈專家)

For F*** Magazine


Director : Herman Yau
Cast : Andy Lau, Jiang Wu, Ron Ng, Babyjohn Choi, Audrey Song Jia, Philip Keung, Liu Kai Chi, Felix Wong, Louis Cheung, Tony Ho, Shek Sau, Felix Lok, Vincent Wan, Michael Tong
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 1h 59min
Opens : 20 April 2017
Rating : PG13 (Violence)

The original Chinese title of this action thriller translates to ‘Bomb Dismantling Expert’. Not quite as exciting as ‘Shock Wave’, but it is an accurate description of our protagonist, Cheung Choi-san (Lau). Cheung heads up the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Department. 18 months ago, Cheung went undercover as a member of notorious criminal Hung Kai-pang’s (Jiang) gang, and Hung has wanted revenge ever since escaping Cheung’s grasp. Now calling himself ‘Blast’, Hung toys with Cheung by planting several bombs for Cheung to defuse. This culminates with Blast rigging Hong Kong’s Cross Harbour Tunnel with explosives, the terrorist and his men holding hundreds of commuters hostage. As Cheung’s girlfriend Carmen (Song) awaits his safe return, the bomb defusal expert must face off against an unstoppable mad bomber, as the city braces for cataclysmic destruction.

Shock Wave reunites star and producer Lau with Herman Yau, who directed him in The Truth and Fascination Amour. As one would expect of a film about a bomb disposal specialist, Shock Wave does not skimp on the explosions. The production values pass muster, with a massive full-scale replica of the Cross Harbour Tunnel entrance built for the film. The computer-generated set extensions are largely seamless.Alas, Shock Wave is also often patently ridiculous. The screenplay by Yau and Erica Li is packed with clichés, with the influence of various Hollywood action thrillers including Blown Away, Speed and The Dark Knight and all the Die Hard movies plain to see. The dialogue is overwrought, emotional scenes are all too maudlin, and when the film should be at its tensest, it’s unintentionally hilarious.

Lau is as suave and charming as he usually is, playing the confident bomb disposal expert. While there is a good amount of action and Lau had to don a bomb disposal suit weighing 31 kg, the role doesn’t require very much of him. Jiang’s villainous Blast is barely menacing, and not just because one is wont to snicker every time the name ‘Blast’ shows up in the subtitles. For all the innocent people who die by his hand, Blast just isn’t scary. He spends the bulk of the film flailing and yelling, when this film clearly requires a cool, droll antagonist along the lines of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

This reviewer often refers to the protagonist’s love interests in action movies as ‘the designated girlfriend’. Song’s Carmen is the designated-est girlfriend who ever girlfriended, barely registering as an entity in the film. She wants Cheung to say “I love you” to her, which he’s holding out on. Cue the eye rolls. Philip Keung plays Cheung’s blustery superior at the police department, spending most of the film throwing a conniption fit. His anger at the situation and his concern for Cheung’s well-being is supposed to be moving, but instead, Keung overplays it to a silly degree. Louis Cheng pops up as a friendly tour guide, lending the film some welcome humanity.

Shock Wave features several clever set pieces and some elaborate, thrilling stunts. There’s also a subplot about the financial impact of the hostage crisis and how the CEO of the firm that operates the tunnel stands to profit from the situation, which isn’t quite as derivative as the rest of the film. This fails to fully mitigate how formulaic the film is, compounded by how every time Yau tries for drama, he ends up with comedy instead. Even with a few surprises flung our way, Shock Wave is largely predictable and is too melodramatic to take seriously.

Summary: Shock Wave might boast grand set-pieces and Andy Lau in fine form, but it’s silly when it should be intense and is comprised of many familiar action thriller ingredients.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong