97 Aces Go Places


AKA: Aces Go Places 6, Aces Go Places 97, Aces Go Places 1997

Year of release: 1997

Genre: comedy/action

Director: Chin Kar-Lok

Action directors: Yee Tin-Hung, Chin Kar-Lok, Wong Kim-Kwong, Wong Wai-Fai, Bruce Law

Producer: Raymond Wong

Writer: Raymond Wong

Cinematography: Herman Yau

Editor: Robert Choi Hung

Music: Mak Jan-Hung

Stars: Alan Tam, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Christy Chung, Donna Chu, Francis Ng, Maria Cordero, Ben Lam, Billy Chow, Moses Chan, Simon Lui, Dayo Wong

Rated IIB for violence and language

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Rushed out to premiere in Hong Kong cinemas in time for the 1997 handover to China, 97 Aces Go Places (which is a sequel to the previous Aces Go Places movies in name only) suffers from many of the problems you would expect from a slap-dash production, ending up in a very uneven product. It's enjoyable enough (at least in a dopey way) at times, but many segments will have you reaching for the Excedrin or a cold beer to help dull the pain.

Unquestionably, the best part of the movie -- and really, the only compelling reason to watch this, especially if you're a straight male -- is Christy Chung. Not only is she extremely easy on the eyes, but she displays a nice flair for comedy, and is surprisingly good in the action scenes, where she takes some solid bumps. 97 Aces Go Places was obviously made in part as a star vehicle for her, but after a messy divorce and the release of a "picture book" (both of which became fodder for the ravenous Hong Kong tabloid press) her career faded into semi-obscurity over the next few years.

The quality of the rest of the picture is negligible at best. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai puts in a total "ramen money" performance, and looks downright uncomfortable in scenes which parody his turn in the gay-themed drama Happy Together. Francis Ng probably gained ten pounds from all the scenery he chewed delivering his extremely over-the-top take as a Triad boss -- though, to his credit, he does deliver the movie's funniest gag in a scene where he deals with some intestinal trouble by doing tai chi to the Wong Fei-Hung theme.

And Alan Tam is, well, he's just being Alan Tam -- which means he's not very good. There's a big reason he is much more well-known (and respected) as a musician. Though you have to give him a couple of points for being able to take the piss out of himself via series of jokes that poke fun of his age and vanity, Tam's incessant mugging (sometimes annoyingly delivered directly to the audience by the breaking of the "fourth wall") is almost enough to make the viewer reach for the stop button, or yet another cold one.

For westerners, Hong Kong comedies are definitely an acquired taste. Their loud and brash delivery combined with a dependence on Cantonese puns and pop culture references make them very much a product aimed at local audiences. No matter what you think of the genre, 97 Aces Go Places isn't likely to change your opinion about it. For better or worse, this movie follows a playbook and hit the highs and lows you might expect, which, depending on your view of Hong Kong comedy, could either be a really great or really horrible way to spend ninety minutes.