THE ADVENTURERS (2017) review

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Initially rumored to be a remake of John Woo’s Once a Thief, Stephen Fung’s The Adventurers is actually simply a caper in the same spirit, with only European locations and a central duo of thieves in common with the 1991 film. Dan Zhang (Andy Lau), a highly-skilled thief, has just been released after serving a four-year prison sentence. Right upon becoming a free man again, and despite being closely watched by French detective Pierre Bissette (Jean Reno), he immediately goes back to his old ways, stealing a priceless necklace in Cannes, with the help of his trusted partner Bao (Tony Yang) and Red (Shu Qi), a talented aspiring thief. Next, Zhang sets his sight on another piece of invaluable jewelry that is in the possession of a Chinese billionaire (Sha Yi), safely kept in his castle in Czech Republic. But Bissette is still on his trail, and teams up with Amber Li (Zhang Jingchu), an art expert who’s none other than Zhang’s long-suffering girlfriend.

 

The novelty of capers – their exotic locations, their high-tech gear, their flirtatious relationships – has worn off a long time ago, with the successes of the past 20 years in the genre achieving viability either through a bombardment of star power (Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen), a gritty period feel (The Bank Job), a healthy dose of quirkiness (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch), a smoldering match-up (Entrapment), or an over-the-top barrage of destruction (the second Fast and Furious trilogy). The Adventurers fills none of these slots. Sure, it has a cast to die for, but rather than having characters tailored to the strengths of its actors (like in Soderbergh’s Ocean films), it mutes its actors’ personalities, constraining them in bland, strictly one-dimensional characters.

Andy Lau is effortlessly charismatic and feline as ever, and he pleasingly flashes his trademark rakish smile on more than one occasion, but his Dan Zhang has but one feature: integrity. He has next to no chemistry with Tony Yang, though the latter injects some welcome awkwardness into his stock tech-sidekick role. Shu Qi is the swaggering seductress, and nothing more (though, for the eyes, that’s a whole lot). Much like in Ringo Lam’s Sky on Fire, Zhang Jingchu (who has the best English of the whole cast) seems to have been hired solely to stand on the sidelines, looking perpetually grief-stricken. Eric Tsang pleasingly pops up from time to time, but the plot twist relating to his character is incredibly obvious right from his first seconds onscreen. Worst of all, that great face-off between Andy Lau and Jean Reno, teased in the film’s marketing, never really materializes. They share a few perfunctory passive-agressive scenes, but even with the obligatory bit of backstory, there’s not a hint of tension between them, and not a spark of a frenemy dynamic.

Sleekly shot by Shane Hurlbut (the man on the receiving end of Christian Bale’s infamous  outburst in 2008), the film is a pleasure to look at, but it’s a wonder it took five screenwriters to hatch such a collection of well-worn caper tropes. As often in this genre, high-tech gear is there to plug plot holes: here, a spider-like robot that can multi-task to the extent that you almost expect it to dance a seductive tango with Shu Qi. Humor is at times puzzlingly low-brow (female urination is hilarious, apparently), Tuomas Kantelinen’s score regurgitates every horn blast and cool pulsation in the “Scoring a Caper” textbook, and though the action scenes are solid (a quad chase in the forest raises the pulse somewhat), the film ends with a whimper: limp double-crosses and a non-descript shootout in an abandoned factory. Still, while one might perceive a degree of harshness in this review, and indeed this is a film that is quite inferior to the sum of its parts, it is in the end passable, unpretentious entertainment. The same team with a fresh script could produce something far more exciting and memorable.

Long Story Short: A half-baked caper that squanders its starry cast and fine production values on a rote, derivative script. **

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1 Comment

  1. kenny

     /  August 18, 2017

    the adventurers a great movie produce in china jean reno is a great actors wasabi and ronin a great movies

    Reply

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