Film Review: The Adventurers

Jewel thieves try to stay one step ahead of cops and cronies in a handsome caper from Chinese director Stephen Fung.
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Looking like a million bucks and boasting an impressive cast, The Adventurers wants to be a lighthearted romp about jewel thieves gamboling through Europe. But poor scripting and a serious lack of energy make this passable fun at best.

Alpha thief here is Dan Zhang (Andy Lau), lithe, unflappable, determined. Lau, one of the kings of Hong Kong culture, is equally at home in leather or tuxedos, with guns or champagne. But he plays it too close here, letting his colleagues do most of the work. Perhaps the fact that half of his dialogue is in English makes him seem too hesitant.

French cop Pierre Bissette (a sluggish but endearing Jean Reno) also struggles through his lines in English, consistently arriving just too late to incidents and at one point letting Zhang escape for incomprehensible reasons. Reno's presence and the milieu in general bring The Adventurers into Luc Besson territory.

Zhang's team includes comparative youngster Po Chen (Yo Yang), a computer whiz, and Red Ye, played by true thief Shu Qi, who walks away with every scene she's in. They all work for "King" Kong, another outstanding turn by Hong Kong vet Eric Tsang. Zhang also has a girlfriend, Amber Li (Zhang Jingchu), an art expert who mostly stands around decoratively.

Director Stephen Fung (one of five credited screenwriters) borrows liberally from the Mission: Impossible plotlines, offering big set-pieces in eye-catching Cannes and Prague locations, lots of electronic gadgets, and twists and reversals that don't make much sense. Another big inspiration is John Woo's Once a Thief, whose three incredibly photogenic leads struck romantic sparks that never quite ignited.

One problem here is that all the elaborate schemes rely on weak contrivances, notably spider robots who turn up whenever the heroes are in trouble. Fung mounts one decent car chase, but action otherwise is almost nonexistent. And the double-crosses are way too easy to spot.

Frankly, the best element of The Adventurers is Shu Qi, a fixture in Asian cinema. (She's starred in everything from Hou Hsiao-hsien's art-house outings Millennium Mambo and The Assassin to mainstream hits like The Transporter and Lost in Thailand.) Effortlessly enticing but no knock-over, her character toys with everyone else in the movie, waiting for them to catch up.

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