Conmen in Vegas
Hong Kong 1999
Directed by Wong Jing.

Never has a gambling movie contained so little actual gambling. But there is some poo shaped like Mickey Mouse, if that's any consolation.

Never has a gambling movie been less about gambling, and more about Wong Jing potty humour run wild. Andy Lau reprises his role as the 'Sharper' King. Nick Cheung is back as Dragon, his sidekick. When we left them at the end of Conman, King and Dragon's sister finally got together. But now she is off to school. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.

Conmen in Vegas introduces a new character, much to my dismay. It seems King has a cousin who is stuck in adolescence. The ever unamusing Nat Chan. I don't recall ever enjoying any of his performances in any of the movies I've seen him in. I think he's supposed to be funny, but it's the kind of humor that makes people NEVER, EVER rent another Hong Kong comedy again.

The three conmen pull an elaborate gambling stunt to start things off right, but are quickly caught. Dragon gets captured by the other gamblers, King and his cousin by the police. They quickly discover that the Chinese CIA wants King to do a job for them, and won't take no for an answer. The CIA are after one Peter Chu, who stole 4 billion dollars from the government and fled to Las Vegas. The CIA wants King to bring Peter Chu and his money back to China, for which they will be rewarded handsomely. A call from the gamblers who captured Dragon, demanding ransom for him, clinches the deal. King and Nat travel to America.

En route, King and Nat meet up with two young girls, one skinny and beautiful, the other cute and busty. They walk around in bathing suits alot, Nat stares open mouthed at her cleavage alot, people get the usual nosebleeds and erections when they see the girls. I read that Wong Jing found two new hot talents for the film. They are beautiful, it's true. Can they act? Hard to say, since it was never really required of them. Do they get naked? No, not a bit. Which begs the question, why get new, unknown talents for your film if you're not even asking to show any nudity? It certainly couldn't have hurt, and the story was fairly screaming for nudity. But it was not to be. Instead they walk around in skimpy bathing suits for a little while. Those of us who have visited beaches in the past find nothing particularly interesting in this.

In Vegas, they all very quickly get embroiled in a gambling match with their target, Peter Chu (Alex Man). Tragically, that gambling match is the LAST one in the film! It's utterly shameful, but the film doesn't even end with a climactic gambling scene! How can you call this a gambling movie!

King and Nat beat Chu at the gambling table, but shortly thereafter Chu turns the tables on them and captures Nat for a little torment. It turns out that Nat is a big fan of Mickey Mouse, having two tattoos of the cute little rodent. Moments after finding out, Chu and his henchment arrive with a gift for Nat -- poo, in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Now, the poo scene develops from there, answering the tantalizing question, who gets poo in the face? But I was too involved in a question of my own to pay much attention: Who put the poo in the Mickey Mouse shape in the first place? Between finding out he liked Mickey Mouse, and being presented with the poo, I figure no more than five minutes elapsed. I imagined the villain barking at his henchmen, "Who has to drop a load?! Quick!! Use this box!! And shape it into Mickey Mouse! Quickly!!" Did the henchman then rush to the bathroom, or just to the closet? Did he wear gloves while sculpting the poo? Because it really is very well sculpted.

Producer/Director Wong Jing now believes he is Alfred Hitchcock. Not in the ham fisted way that he directs, but rather in the idea of on-screen cameos. However, his cameo in this film was over long. Too long. So he isn't Alfred Hitchcock so much as Quentin Tarantino. Wong Jing plays the "famous" hollywood director Woo. John Woo? No, Handsome Woo, porn director. Once again, nudity? No, sorry, try again later.

The story drifts from Hong Kong to Vegas to the open desert. In the desert, Alex Man steals the show with his lively characterizations as Peter Chu. Nat stumbles from one overwrought, overextended, bad joke to another. We get treated to snake bites, and the required 'sucking out the poison' jokes. Sucking the poison out of a snake bite has been discredited as a remedy for years. I remember learning about this from the Boy Scout handbook twenty years ago! Surely everyone knows by now that you don't really suck the poison from a snake bite to help someone. So why does it continue to be featured in EVERY film that includes a snake bite? It drives me crazy. Once Nat sucks the poison out we are treated to a ridiculous pair of big blubberly lips on him for the next twenty minutes of the movie. When did the joke stop being funny? For that matter, when did it start?

About the only enjoyable thing about the film are the cons that King and the gang pull. At the end, they become more and more elaborate, until a suspension of disbelief is no longer possible. But then again, I could believe his elaborate con more than I could believe a hitman would be hunkering down in the hallway sculpting his poo to look like Mickey Mouse.

Andy Lau should be doing better work than this. And I should be watching better work than this. This is one film about a group of 'Sharps' that falls flat.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 31, 2004.

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