Relentless director Wong Jing’s latest farce has less of a plot than either of the first two films in the series, and is even less tethered to reality, in action, story, setting or character. It’s a bunch of shiny effects thrown at aged stars of the 90s, old movie and TV references (Chow Yun-fat spends awhile thinking he’s in Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, a ping-pong match with Jacky Cheung calling back to Johnnie To’s The Eighth Happiness, a little joke about Nick Cheung’s award-winning performance in Unbeatable, a whole sequence set in a prison with leftover costumes from Prison on Fire, even the central romance is Jacky Cheung’s unrequited love for Carina Lau, ala Days of Being Wild, etc etc*).
Of course the whole thing is a riff on the God of Gamblers series, with Chow playing a dual role as the original character and this newer farcical incarnation, kind of as if his amnesia-induced split personalities in that first film had developed into two separate realities. Andy Lau unites them (as he did the original series and Steven Chow’s parody of it), reprising his role as the Knight of Gamblers, but his performance bears no relation to that original character: he’s merely a vehicle for dumb slapstick jokes (a literal pie in the face, peeing baby robots) and inside jokes about Lau’s own career. It’s a movie that breaks into a song or an extended effects-driven bit of action, or a series of dumb mostly unfunny jokes at any opportunity. But there’s something liberating about Wong’s indifference to normalcy.
*Movie loses a half a star because the two dying robots didn’t crawl past each other like at the end of The Killer.