Aces Go Places V
The final sequel in this long running series was
made in 1989 – seven years after the original. Overall it often seems to
be the least favorite of the films for many people – and though it does
lack the sharpness and sense of freshness of the earlier films – it still
maintains much of what made the earlier films successful. What it is missing
most of course is Inspector Nancy Ho – Sylvia Chang – who has immigrated
to Canada with Baldy Junior and who is waiting for her Albert to join them
at some point.
Though Sylvia was rarely the main focus of these
films, it really was her character that kept it glued together – that gave
it an emotional center – and without her both Sam Hui and Karl Maka seem
a little bit adrift and a little less personable. The film tries to fill
her void with a fabulous roster of talent that all have excellent turns
and give the film some pizzazz. Other than Hui and Maka, there are also
performances from Leslie Cheung, Nina Li, Ellen Chan, Melvin Wong and Conan
Lee – and enjoyable cameos from Danny Lee (a funny turn), Roy Cheung, Fennie
Yuen, Walter Cho and Maria Cordero. It all adds up to a nice parade of
talent going by.
Even though the series has a formula that it followed
to some extent, it’s interesting in how all the different directors of
the series brought their own prejudices to their film and made them all
somewhat different in focus from one another. The first two – directed
by Eric Tsang – had a much more comic feel, Tsui Hark directed the third
and he clearly enjoyed creating the multitude of special effects, Ringo
Lam made his “action/comedy” as intense as he could get away with and now
the fifth again has a somewhat different feel to it.
The legendary kung-fu director Lar Kar-leung helms
this one and he introduces a great deal of martial arts into the film.
Clearly most of the cast other than Sam Hui and Conan are not really trained
for this sort of thing – but much of it is reasonably well done and rather
fun to watch. There are a number of hand to hand fighting scenes and some
sword fighting thrown in as well. The final fifteen minutes of the film
is nearly all chaotic action utilizing guns, swords, hand to hand and anything
else that came to mind!
In the opening scene Baldy and King Kong kidnap
a young Thai woman and return her to her husband only to find that she
was sold to this man and had eloped to be with her lover. As soon as they
hear this, they of course change their minds but seriously differ on whether
to return the payment or not. This argument destroys their friendship and
they go off in separate directions for a few years. They are brought back
together again when a brother and sister act (Leslie and Nina) steal the
“Chinese Excalibur” from another crook - Melvin Wong – who along with the
“Excalibur” has also stolen all of the Terracotta Warriors from the Mainland.
Not only did they steal it (and escape by having a canon shoot them over
a barbed wire fence) – but they did it while wearing masks that looked
like Baldy and King Kong.
Sam who is now running a shady investment company
(Forever Rich Inc.!) along with his loyal secretary (Ellen Chan) - and
Baldy who is hiding from debtors at his niece’s (Fenny Yuen) house soon
have the HK police, the Mainland police (Conan Lee) and the crooks after
them. They once again need to join forces just like the old days to overcome
all the obstacles. There is a sense of nostalgia in the film – both the
actors and their characters have gotten older – and they make fun of that
a bit. Even though on a few occasions it is clear that doubles are being
used, both Maka and Hui still do some tough stunt work here and show they
have not lost too many steps. They track down Leslie and Nina – but the
Mainland cops capture, kidnap and bring back all four of them to the Mainland
and put them into a prison camp.
Though the scenes in the camp are played out
for humor, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that it is barbed wire humor
as references to “human rights” and “buying you own bullets for your execution”
are clear digs at the Mainland system. Danny Lee has a very humorous cameo
as a prisoner about to be executed for “whore mongering” and gives the
crew advice on what bullet to buy when it comes to their turn. Roy Cheung
is the commandant of the camp.
Needless to say they decide to co-operate with
the Mainland authorities and help them recover the rest of the treasure
from the bad guys. This leads to the final end piece, which is really very
good and loads of fun. The battle with the foursome – and joined by Ellen
Chan – against a warehouse full of bad guys is cleverly done with many
of the bad guys disguised as Terracotta Warriors. Nina Li has a few great
moments – and looks gorgeous throughout the film. I wonder if she had Jet
helping her out with her kung-fu routines!
I have never really been a huge fan of this series,
but watching all five of them within a fairly short time frame had the
cumulative effect of making me appreciate them much more so. The characters
played by Maka, Hui and Chang became very endearing over the five films
and I felt a sense of sadness that I have no more of them to watch – that
I had to say goodbye to them. As good as some of the stunts and action
were at times and as goofy as the comedy was, it is really the interaction
of this threesome that makes these films work and what I will remember
My rating for this film: 7.0
Distributor - Universe
The transfers for all the films in this series
are universally excellent with crisp image and great color - but this one
did show a bit more wear than the other four - and at least my copy had
a tiny bit of artifacting near the end .
Letterbox - almost extremely so!
Subs - English, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese,
Japanese, Korean, Bahasa Malaysian and Indonesian
Star files - Sam Hui, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang,
Leslie Cheung and Nina Li.
Easy to read subs on black border beneath picture.