Aces Go Places ★★★½

The first of the smash hit action/comedy series that was one of the first big successes of the Cinema City studio that dominated 80s Hong Kong. Pioneering cantopop star Sam Hui plays a master jewel thief who helps a bumbling detective catch an English crook.

This is the first I've seen of any of the Hui Brothers (big comic stars of the 70s), and Sam comes off pretty well here, but probably that's just because he's sharing the screen with Karl Maka and Dean Shek, Cinema City co-founders who push the boundaries of what is acceptably broad comic acting. The best performance is from Sylvia Chang, a badass cop who is intense and hilarious, at least until she gets hypnotized by some Karl Maka Taming of the Shrew voodoo and turns into a puddle of girlishness.

Some of the action scenes are particularly impressive, though they tend for the car chase-and-globe-trotting style over more traditional Hong Kong genre elements (the series is in many ways a James Bond parody). Best is when Hui (or his stuntman) leaps lengthwise over a Trans Am speeding towards him, which director Eric Tsang shows us in an unbroken long shot. Wire-aided or not, it's incredible.

This is also the first film I've seen directed by Tsang, a comic actor I really liked in Sammo Hung's Lucky Stars movies who also gives a brilliant dramatic performance in Comrades, Almost a Love Story. He also directed the second film in the Aces Go Places series, but check out the directors of parts 3-5: Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Lau Kar-leung. Gonna have to keep watching these.

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