REVIEW: The Adventurers (2017)

Five years after he is betrayed during a jewel heist, professional thief Dan Cheung (Andy Lau) is released from prison and immediately sets about returning to his criminal career. He targets a prize he knows that whoever betrayed him at the last robbery will be unable to resist, and plans a trap to finally get his revenge. Meanwhile the dogged police detective Pierre Bissette (Jean Reno) enlists Cheung’s ex-lover Amber Li (Zhang Jingchu) to help in tracking her former boyfriend down.

With The Adventurers actor-turned-director Stephen Fung delivers a remarkably old-fashioned Hong Kong action film. It boasts a solid amount of star power, including Andy Lau and Shu Qi. It throws in popular European guest star Jean Reno. It includes glamorous location shoots in France and the Czech Republic, and showcases them among high-performance sports car and motorcycle chases, gun fights, and stunt sequences. All things considered, it is surprising that the end result is so relentlessly mediocre.

Of course mediocre does not necessarily mean ‘awful’. The Adventurers brings with it a passable entertainment value thanks to the on-screen talent, the attractive photography, and particularly the smart pairing of Lau and Reno as opponents divided by the law. Viewers keen for a breezy and uncomplicated adventure film may even find the film reasonably enjoyable. Anyone seeking something original or innovative will probably not find the same amount of enjoyment, and anyone expecting something particularly special is going to be very disappointed. The film does heark back to an earlier generation of Hong Kong action film, one typified most obviously by John Woo’s 1991 screen caper Once a Thief, or Jingle Ma’s Tokyo Raiders (2000). It simply does not do it particularly well, nor does it provide anything more contemporary to replace those film’s common elements.

Lau is such an innately watchable performer. He boasts one of the strongest screen presences of any actor working today, with a natural sense of charm that is so finely tuned it makes him entertaining no matter what material he is given. Reno has something very similar, and together they mark the film’s strongest assets. Were they not there to support the rest of the movie it would likely be too dull to watch. Other actors simply do not manage to transcend their overly-familiar characters and rote story arcs. Shu Qi for the most part is saddled with playing ‘the girl’, who always crops up in these movies purely to look pretty and provide a love interest for one of the male protagonists. Given her own strong talent, she feels badly under-used.

As noted above, The Adventurers is not a terrible film. It is, however, a crushingly average one. The question, when debating whether or not to track it down and watch it, is whether or not it is a better film to watch than any number of other recent Chinese-language films one could choose. For Lau, it is well worth tracking down his 2015 drama Lost and Love, or the 2017 action thriller Shock Wave. For Shu Qi, watch The Assassin (2015). The Adventurers simply is not really worth the effort, despite whatever promise its set-up appears to have.

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