The Sting II: Perfect Exchange (1993, Hong Kong)
This is not a sequel to the 1973 film The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and seems an equally unlikely sequel to the 1992 Hong Kong film The Sting (starring Andy Lau, who appears in both apparently unconnected films in very different roles). A comedy-drama, it has, if nothing else, an English title which is much less abstruse than the literal translation of its Cantonese title – reportedly 36 Esteemed Cons: To Steal the Sky and Change the Moon.
Lau plays Mandy Chin, card shark. With the help of a couple of helpful poker dealers, his girlfriend Lily (Christy Chung) and friend ‘Goldfinger’ Ah Chi, he fleeces a couple of bigshot players, including Lau You-cho (Wan Chi Keung), and a big-noting, try-hard prison inspector, Chung Chor-Hung (Tony Ka Fai Leung), out of around HK$6 million.
Mr Lau is evidently not pleased about the $4m he loses. After Mandy kills several of his men in a fiery car chase, then beats up Chung’s friends in a bar (after Chung hits on Lily) and leaves Chung trussed up in a toilet cubicle, he finds Lau waiting for him in his apartment when he returns home. The sore loser Mr Lau has taken Lily hostage; and does a deal: he will not kill them if within two months Mandy can retrieve $300 million in Government bonds that his former second-in-command, now in prison, stole from him. If he can get the bonds back Lau will give him $10m. Easy.
To get into prison Mandy has Lily accuse him of rape and, when the judge seeks to bail him on the basis of the flimsy evidence, throws a shoe at him; he promptly gets put inside – where of course he comes face-to-face with Chung, champing at the bit to try out an ugly instrument with which to perform rectal examinations. Mandy escapes the examination, but has to work fast and immediately seeks out his target, Robinson Shun (Kwan Hoi-san), who has withstood all attempts by another of Lau’s men, Dinosaur (Chan Chi-fai), to muscle the money out of him, and is not about to give the bonds up easily.
Dinosaur, a team player, breaks Robinson’s leg so that Mandy might get him alone in the prison hospital. Robinson is no fool and immediately twigs that Lau has sent Mandy to con him out of the money. It transpires that he was Lau’s father-in-law; that Lau killed his daughter and framed him for the murder. Mandy resolves to help him retrieve the money and gain revenge on Lau.
As much as the dramatic action is predictable, the comedic bits are, well, unsophisticated. Puerile. The film gives a gentle nod to some classic Hong Kong prison movies, featuring some familiar, seasoned movie prisoners… whom Mandy both appeases and entrances with his revolving penis. Like the prisoners in his charge, Chung, too, is desperate to learn to make his penis revolve on command, and when the hapless guard is instructed by a know-all computer to tie a barbell to his penis and drop the weight on the floor, he does. Later, after being found by Mr Lau trying to seduce his wife (not without encouragement) in his own home, Chung is tied up and a sausage-eating Chinese water dragon is set on him to eat his penis. Ho ho! You might detect a theme.
If the prison scenes are not the most comical you have ever seen, they are not the most authentic, either. Mandy stages three rather easy escapes, first after hiding on a work detail, the second after hiding in the car of a complicit female chaplain, and the third (with Chung, who has become a prisoner himself after the ‘trespassing’ incident in Mr Lau’s house, and Robinson) after hiding in a water tanker that has arrived to assist quell a riot. He spends such a long time at large (with no consequences, ever), even the time that he should be in prison is not really prison movie fare.
Prison comedy is challenging; prison drama a bit easier. This is a good example of those challenges, and not such a good example of the easier bits. It is, nonetheless, fast-moving and mildly diverting.
Posted on April 18th, 2018 at 10:02 pm. Updated on April 18th, 2018 at 10:02 pm.