The Man from Macau was the third movie to debut on February 8 this year. While the story has some connection with its two predecessors, most viewers declared it to be heavy on Hong Kong eye candy and light on substance.
If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that the Chinese film industry likes gambling movies even more than most Hong Kongers like gambling. There are more than a hundred gambling movies indexed by Baidu starring every generation of Hong Kong heartthrob from Chow Yun Fat to Andy Lau and Tony Leung.
The most famous is God of Gamblers, shot in 1989 and starring Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau. As one of the trendsetters, God of Gamblers is the template on which all modern Chinese gambling movies are constructed.
The Man from Macau series in no exception.
The first movie aired in 2014 around Chinese New Year. With a cast that included Chow Yun Fat, Chapman To and other popular Hong Kong stars, it sucked in 180 million yuan in its first week.
The story follows Shi Yijian, a top gambler who plans to retire from a gambling house in the US. When Shi returns to Macau, he and his friends end up involved with a criminal group. Shi secures their escape with his outstanding gambling skills.
The second movie follows Shi as he helps police those same criminals. It aired during Spring Festival 2015 and ended with Shi deciding to get out of the gambling business. The move starred Carina Liu, Shawn Yue and Angela, a woman from the reality show Dad Where Are We Going? Chow Yun Fat played both Shi Yijian and Gao Jin, his character in God of Gamblers.
The latest movie, as usual, arrived during the holiday. Gambling movies succeed best when families are playing mahjongg or throwing cards.
This time, Shi Yijian finally decides to retire. However, he loses his memory when an explosion happens on his daughter’s wedding day. Shi ends up in prison and must once again cooperate with friends and master gamblers to catch a criminal.
The new movie still stars Chow Yun Fat, Andy Lau, Nick Cheung and several actors and actresses from the last two films, as well as Jacky Cheung and Li Yuchun.
The film is poor by any measure. The effects look cheap, the dialogue is dry, the jokes fall flat and the action has been toned down. Worse yet, it seems like not a minute of screen time goes by without a blatant product placement.
Douban reviewers have given the movie an abysmal score of 4.1 stars. Most reviewers rewarded only one star, and only then because it brought back so many familiar faces.