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̨ΩɤK (1997)
97 Aces Go Places

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 04/20/2011
Summary: "Don't think ashtray dirty man." -- Philay Ho Sik

The action comedy series Aces Go Places was one of Hong Kong’s most successful movie franchises during the 1980s. Given the penchant for remakes in Hong Kong I am never surprised when films get remade, reworked, another sequel is added or in this case just the name is reused. Other than the fact that the theme song from Aces Go Places can be heard at several times during the film and that this is an action comedy there is no other connection between this and the original movies.

Occasionally when I watch a movie for the first time I get about 15 minutes into the film and think I should do a review on this movie because I really do not want to watch it a second time. So out comes the notepad.

Li Lai-shan/Pang Tang/Cherrie Chung (Christy Chung Lai-Tai, The Medallion) is a con-artist who robs/cons rich patrons like Lui Yue-yeung (Francis Ng, Infernal Affairs 2) and gives the money to a convalescent center where her sister (Donna Chu Git-Yee) is staying because of mental issues from her childhood when she saw the brutal murder of her parents. However earlier Lai-shan had conned a massive amount of money in a poker game from a triad head which caused him to have a heart attack. In his will he stated that his son “Philay” Ho Sik (Cantonese music star Alan Tam Wing-lun, Casino Raiders) is to take revenge by killing her with a gun. Little Sik is a wayward son who has no interest in guns or violence. But since he has to he is tutored by Drunken Gun (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Happy Together) a Beggar So type with a gun who is an awful shot when sober but deadly when drunk. Of course “Philay” falls in love with his target. So what will he do when he needs to kill her while she is simultaneously being chased down by Yue-yeung’s thugs?

This movie contains some of the most hilariously blatant product placements that I have seen. There are two scenes where cans of Pepsi are stacked on top of each of other that have no business being there: on an upstairs floor of a multi-story business building and later in the film stacked in a make-shift place (actually I have no idea what this place was; it was like a large room made in a hanger). When Christy Chung knocks a bad guy into the large stack of cans in the first scene mentioned she then takes a drink out of it with the Pepsi name in full view before she hurls it at another bad guy in disgust for the blatant commercialism.

The movie is full of in jokes that are hit and miss even if are familiar with them (I had to look up many). An interesting and apparently popular scene with the locals was when Philay was learning target practice and he shoots a poster of Wong Ha-wai an elderly former actress who was in the recent local news (I learned this from Paul Fonoroff’s book “At The Hong Kong Movies”). The next person he shoots was Leslie Cheung who was a singing rival Alan Tam (though I do suspect some of the rivalry was manufactured at the time). There are also a variety of Alan Tam age jokes that probably mean as much to me as Dick Clark age jokes to someone in their teens. Some humor that worked for me was Simon Loui Yu-Yeung’s bad-guy henchman role especially the scene when he was learning how to drive while at the same time hitting on the instructor: “I collect stamps.” Another good one dealt with the handover especially when Francis Ng is forcefully using an outdoor motorized toilet and a couple states “Honey, look, life will be better after 1997” while two tourists are happy about the freedom to excrete in the streets. But I do have a weakness for outdoor motorized toilet gags.

The stunts are serviceable but the fighting scenes are somewhat forgettable. Christy Chung does a decent job in the fight scenes and does get herself hurt hurling into a table in the last fight scene with Billy Chow, but Billy really has to slow down here (as a counterpoint see him in Fist of Legend with Jet Li). Ultimately for me this film is more mediocre and harmless than dross.

When thinking of director Chin Kar-lok it is hard not to think of Hal Needham (though ultimately he was much more successful as a directory in terms of box office). Both started as stuntmen, did bit parts, both were successful enough to get promoted to do stunt coordination, and action direction, and both would direct action comedies. While Needham was much more successful in terms of box office, both have an odd sense of broad humor and both are more successful when they focus on the action as opposed to character, dialogue, and anything resembling a joke. Also both Needham and Chin directed films were both not that popular in Hong Kong. This movie would bring in 10 Million HK dollars, killed any chance of a sequel and Chin would only direct one more film in 2002 named No Problem 2. Since this was the last mainstream Hong Kong movie released before the handover perhaps this movie was created to make Mainland change its mind.

I cannot in good conscious recommend this to anyone. While I would not state it is as bad as some of the published reviews I have read from Paul Fonoroff who states this is an example of the decline of Hong Kong cinema to John Charles who gives it a 1 out of 10 in “The Hong Kong Filmography” there are many other films that need to be seen before this. I would recommend starting with the original five Aces Go Places movies.

The DVD I have, which I think is the only DVD out there, is the Universe R0 release from 1997. It has Cantonese and Mandarin tracks but what is a little annoying is the Chinese and English subtitles which are not removable. Your extras are the normal Star Files (biographies) and Trailer. The movie was rated IIB (like a US R) in Hong Kong for language only.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 12/15/2009

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.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 04/11/2007
Summary: Christy shines!

Action director Chin Kar-Lok sits in the director’s chair for this comedy film that played in local cinemas during the 1997 Handover festivities. Many Hong Kong comedy movies are extremely provincial, with jokes based on wordplay and local custom. 97 Aces Go Places is such a movie. Inspired loosely by the 1982 hit, this film borrows the infectious theme song and pays homage to some of the action sequences that made the original a huge international hit. Frankly, I thought some of the comedy was quite funny, but this movie has several “squirm in your seat” moments. The movie lives off of one lame joke about Alan Tam Wing-Lun being too old to play a character so young.

Working from the 10 point rating system, the movie loses 3 points for Chin’s direction. Take away 1 point for Alan Tam and 1 point for Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, who is hardly paying attention in most of his scenes. Christy Chung Lai-Tai is, of course, lovely to watch and appears to be quite competent in her action scenes. Give the movie 2 points for her performance. Francis Ng Chun-Yu is an actor I always find compelling, though not in this movie. Take away one point for his peculiar performance. The funniest joke in the whole film is that Ng’s bad guy character is named Lui Yu-Yeung, who has a buffoonish henchman named Chun-Yu, played by the ubiquitous Simon Loui Yu-Yeung. Give the picture 2 points for his funny antics.

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Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: sharkeysbar
Date: 05/07/2006
Summary: words fail me II

I was warned by the shop assistant, don't buy this film, it is no good. Well with a sales pitch like that I had to buy it! I can now admit, she was correct, this film stinks to high heaven, not for what it is but for what it isn't.
Whats with the name? Is it because there is that familiar tune from the previous series of AGP films? It has nothing to do with those great slapstick comedies, but is a silly comedy that is ok in its own right, but I can't get over the title, false advertising!
Oh well, I think in future I better get more advice from my friendly Mongkok film seller, hehe (she did also warn me about Cop Shop Babes).

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ButterflyMurders
Date: 06/08/2002
Summary: Places go aces?

Geeze, c'mon, this film wasn't THAT bad. Granted, it wasn't good either. But, lighten up!

See, all you really had to do basically is replace the "97" with "87", turn off your brain and keep reminding yourself that a) this film is silly and stupid and b) this film is silly and stupid. And with that mentality, this movie can be quite entertaining.

I like how they made jokes at Alan Tam's expense-"you know, that singer who won't admit he's getting old", and also having him play a 20-something character. They were a bit obvious but I found them funny. Another quotable:

"Which month has 28 days?"
"All of them, silly!"

So, lighten up! This film doesn't take itself seriously at all, and neither should anyone who watches it. It certainly doesn't live up to its "Aces Go Places" predecessors, but it's still not too bad. 6.5/10

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 02/17/2002
Summary: Terrible

Well, as said in the other reviews, it is pretty terrible, awful, down-right bad in fact. Though it was obvious it would be as bad as the previous 6 or so movies that spread over 15 years, but this one really was the final push over the edge. Forget the story line, basically a female Robin Hood character, the whole point of these movies were to be funny comedies. The first few were okay, but the jokes were so awful.

Don't watch it! Really!

Reviewer Score: 2

Reviewed by: Souxie
Date: 04/17/2001
Summary: Wonderfully silly

This film was awful - really, really lame and silly. That's why I loved it! They don't make films like this any more - the last one I saw in a similar vein was Cannonball Run. This film is so wonderfully camp and hilariously absurd it made me scream with laughter all the way through. And the end where they talk about not having caught the bad guy, but that's okay because they can do it in the sequel...
Make more movies like this! I want more bottom-shelf rib-bursters that are so infectiously silly I even forgave Tony Leung's stupid hat.

Reviewed by: meixner
Date: 04/09/2000
Summary: Astounding Awfulness


Alan Tam is the effete son of a triad boss ordered to avenge his father's death by killing Christy Chung. She is also being hunted by rival triad boss Francis Ng.

Amazingly awful. Raymond Wong must be stopped.

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

While it certainly wasn't great, it wasn't as terrible as all that. It reminded me of those all-star comedies of the 80's, not surprising since it was penned by former Cinema City scribe Raymond Wong. Unfortunately for this movie, we're in the 90's now, and comedy has matured. Alan Tam has aged a lot since then, too, even though he's in deep denial about that fact. He drags the movie down by trying to play a goofy 25-year-old despite looking closer to 50. The always charismatic Leung Chiu-Wai partially redeems the movie even though it's obvious he's just collecting a paycheck. Francis Ng gives the movie an energy boost in his over-the-top badguy role. And Christy Chung more than holds her own in her new incarnation as an action hero, probably thanks to director Chin Kar-Lok's experience in staging fight sequences. At its best, the movie is capable of eliciting small laughs, but it belongs to another era when audiences were less demanding.

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Cat burglar Li Li Shen (Christy Chung) first swindles atriad boss out of $2 million for a fake Van Gogh, then become the focus of a death bed vow of vengeance. The new head of the family (Alan Tam) reluctantly accepts the commission, but he just can't pull the trigger on one of the sexiest women alive despite the tutelage of HK's best assassin, Drunk Gun (Tony Leung), master of the drunken style pistol-shooting technique. Francis Ng does a hilarious, over-the-top performance as a gang boss which I'm certain will begin to wear you down if you were irritated by the rest of the movie's problems. Classic quote: "Let's beat his asshole." Strangest sequence is when Alan Tam goes to the toilet to the music of OUATIC. If you make it to the end, check out the amusing outtakes.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

i really don't have any words for this movie. one question i have for TLCW is "why were you in this movie????" the reason why i ask is that it was a REALLY bad film. Alan Tam was horrible!! i am even giving Chrisie Cheung some credit here, she did more than just look pretty in this film. Francis Ng's character was totally ridiculous and too over done. it really reminded me of a BAD Wong-Jing-wannabe flick. you can tell the production was so cheap and sloppy. one of those that looks like the whole film was done in 3 days. i was struggling to finish the film only for Tony's sake, even his character was unbearable. UCK!!! Definitely NOT on the TLCW recommend list.

[Reviewed by Fannie H. Ip]