Cinema City's fourth sequel to one of their biggest franchises was once again put in the hands of a new director - and this time, probably the most prolific and experienced of them all, Lau Kar Leung, with his brother Lau Kar Wing, returning as action director!
The Pop's had already spent the past year or two delivering some modern day martial arts action classics, both as director and action-director, so it would only seem fit that he would continue that flow with Aces Go Places 5 - an often dark and serious film overall that seems to have totally lost its way since the insane opening chapter eight years before.
That's not to say it's a bad film...
Opening (very bizarrely) in Thailand, we see best partners, King Kong and Baldy kidnapping a Thai bride from her village, hired by the old man who claims to own her. As guilt and humanity overcome them, they set her free and betray their employer, with Maka getting in on the action in a way that seems slightly out of character.
Definitely not the most exciting opening to the series I have to say!
Moving swiftly to Hong Kong, we see the return of White Glove (albeit a different actor and very different white glove) who has stolen the Chinese Excalibur and the famed Terracotta Army. The deal is very quickly interrupted by brother and sister thieves, Leslie Cheung and Nina Li Chi who get mistaken for the best partners - Kong and Baldy - who escape in the oddest of ways, with the sword.
Conan Lee (aaah, poor Conan Lee), who was under contract with Lau Kar Leung at the time - and having just completed the fantastic Tiger On The Beat movies - plays a cop from the mainland called Chinese Rambo. He does get some funny moments, and thankfully, plenty of martial arts action which is great!
In fact, this would most definitely be the one film of the series that trades it's gadgets and explosive style action, for kung fu...
Not a terrible thing at all - but as with the entry before, just a little out of place compared to the style of films the first ones set up. I must admit though, it is great to see Sam Hui do a lot of his own fighting and stunt work. Having kicked more ass than usual in the fantastic Legend Of Wisely, Sam would have been working on great productions such as Dragon From Russia and Swordsman around the same period, becoming more of an action star in his own right. In Aces Go Places 5, he continues that - with positive results.
I must also add, that Karl Maka gets some great moments in regards to his usual rough and tumble stunt work. He always cracks me up with his awkward and comedic ways of getting thrown around, or falling through something - and it often looks genuinely sore!
There is a fantastic cast throughout with of course, Leslie Cheung and Nina Li Chi joining the main stars. Conan Lee gives one of his last entertaining roles before his career quickly vanished a few years later, and the super cute Ellen Chan (Inspector Wears Skirts) plays King Kong's secretary, and even gets on a bit of the action. The great Danny Lee, Fennie Yuen and Roy Cheung all cameo at some point, and the wonderful Walter Tso returns as a chief superintendent again (also playing a similar role in the Lucky Stars series)...
The role-call for the bad guys is just as great with the brilliant Melvin Wong leading the way and Brad Kerner as the new and improved White Glove. Their henchmen include Lau Kar Leung student Mark Houghton, with Wayne Archer, Bruce Fontaine and Deborah Grant - along with the fantastic and very underused Billy Chong (Crystal Fist) jumping in for a small bad guy role in what would be his last movie role until recent years. Ha Chi Jan, the female guerilla fighter in Eastern Condors who betrays the team, gets to kick ass with a lady partner (who I think may be Lam Siu Lau from Child Of Peach) - so in terms of an action packed cast, we certainly can't be complaining!
The story has Baldy's wife and son now living in Canada, and the lack of Sylvia Chang in an Aces Go Places movie shows. It makes Maka's character somewhat lost in places as they replace her with a niece for company (although briefly). He still gives an entertaining performance as always though...
Plenty of nonsense and a weak script make for a fun but slowish start in the first 30 minutes, which result in the best partners being brought back together in an ice chamber, captured by Melvin Wong and White Glove. From here, you think things will start to pick up for the better as they ramp it up into a great getaway with some crazy stunts. Soon, Kong and Baldy capture the siblings in a bid to clear their name which leads to some torture at the fish farm - a particular nightmare of my own, so I don't envy the actors involved in this scene.
But is it enough to make it the best chapter in the series? Well, to be honest - no!
While director Lau Kar Leung may have an incredible number of classics under his belt, Aces Go Places 5 is not one of them. It's definitely not boring, but it is very uneven and lacks the same impact of other Hong Kong movies released in the same year. The closing fight scene carries over the last 15 minutes of the film, and is actually a lot of fun with some great moves - including a one-to-one between Sam Hui and Billy Chong - but is still far from being labelled as a classic...
Overall: A fine closure to the series, Aces Go Places 5 is a passable mess that still entertains on its own merits!