Yesterday Once More (2004)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-01-02
“Yesterday Once More” tries to get by on the coruscating star power of Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng. It succeeds for a portion of its ridiculously drawn out length but ultimately fails as a caper flick, a romantic comedy or just an entertaining movie. Life among the Hong Kong haute bourgeoisie and the criminals who prey upon them looks extremely dull. The movie takes place on ocean going yachts, in multi-level condominiums, the owners’ boxes at the Jockey Club and a lovely little 14th century stone cottage in the Tuscan hills. The decor is exquisite and the designer clothing is to die for. The chairs in Mrs. Allen’s home are intricate works of art and much more interesting than the attempts at verbal jousting between Mrs. Allen and the unfortunately named Mrs. Thief. Sammi Cheng’s costumes, particularly a number of flowing unlined silk outfits in pastel colors are lovely. Andy Lau’s character has a pair of Lamborghinis while Sammi, due probably to the intricacies of product placement, has to settle for an Audi convertible. The views from every window are breathtaking, the streets are clean and free of traffic and the forces of law and order seem to be on permanent vacation. “Yesterday Once More” is like a Broadway musical that flops because the audience leaves the theater humming the scenery.

An attempt to inject some bathos by having both leads hospitalized with leukemia only makes them seem more annoying. The only interesting characters—the doctor, the wine merchant, the investigators and especially the insurance surveyor—have very little screen time. Unfortunately they stand out as the only people with recognizable human emotions in the movie. Gordon Lam’s vainglorious and very incompetent insurance investigator—his men, armed with the power of a search warrant, fail to discover a wall safe behind a hinged picture while spending the day trying to find a missing necklace—was a welcome distraction from the ennui-inducing depiction of the rich and uninteresting. A movie built around his character could have been better—actually almost anything could have been better. Chun Won and Hui Siu-Hung as competent and corpulent private investigators, gourmands who never met a free meal in a three-star restaurant they didn’t like, were funny and a bit endearing. Lin Wai-Kin as the beleaguered doctor had almost all the funny lines in the script but had the smallest part of any featured player. To say that Courtney Wu’s comic talents were wasted in his turn as a wine merchant would be accurate but imprecise, since everyone’s talent was misused here.

The last half hour drags by on leaden feet. We know what must happen at the end of the movie but no longer care—if, that is, we ever did. There is a replay of a jewelry heist that was dull the first time through and unendurable the second. Everything that happened in the first part of the film—the theft, the trip to Italy, the breakup, the attempted reconciliation, even going to the original spot where the leads formerly stashed their loot—is done over. It is a bit quicker the second time but seems to take much longer.

Johnny To has made more good films in any decade of his career than most directors make in a lifetime. He is an absolute master of the police thriller, has created existential hit men, gangsters with as much style as the Milan Fashion Week and tough guys with codes of honor rooted in medieval times. More importantly he has made those characters authentic, credible and recognizable as human beings. His forays into comedy have been uneven—some good, some lousy—but “Yesterday Once More” shouldn’t be seen as anything other than a genius having a really bad six weeks.

Not recommended
Reviewer Score: 3