Yesterday Once MoreReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/10/05 16:10:55
Here’s a treat for you caper fans. “Yesterday Once More” reteams Hong Kong megastars Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng (the Hanks and Ryan of Asia, it would seem) and their ace director, Johnny To, all for a smooth caper romance built in the style of “To Catch a Thief” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.” The result isn’t as successful as one would hope, but it’s still immensely satisfying, a joyful, jazzy romp that doesn’t really have anywhere to go yet doesn’t mind lounging around in style.Lau and Cheng are two impossibly gorgeous people, and here they’re playing two impossibly talented thieves, meaning “escapism” isn’t enough of a word for what this movie holds for us. They’re master criminals who are still in love even after being divorced for two years - even if they won’t admit it to each other. Both are living in style, driving all the cars and living in all the swank apartments you’ll never even get to see. She’s now getting married to a raging dope (Carl Wu), but only if she can get her hands on a family heirloom, a priceless necklace currently in the hands of the dope’s cold hearted mommy (Jenny Hu, making her first screen appearance in three decades).
But he’s out to sabotage these plans by stealing the necklace for himself, even if that means horning in on her heist. And what a heist it is; it’s a silly delight involving fast runners, fast dogs, and out-of-shape cops that’s pure fun in its zippy pacing.
The bulk of the film centers on the couple’s will-they, won’t-they reunion, which hinges on her greediness and his playfulness. They globetrot, they one-up each other on minor thievings, and they flirt, flirt, flirt. There’s also some goodness concerning insurance investigators and a mother eager to outwit those that outwitted her and her son, but this stuff’s secondary. The real joys of this movie are merely in watching Lau and Cheng play off one another.
It all comes crashing down in a final act that doesn’t quite hold up. To, who also wrote the screenplay, tries to add ill-fitting sentiment into the project, meaning the entire finale dissolves into cheap melodrama. Granted, such schmaltz is typical in non-action Hong Kong cinema, but here it’s too forced and too random. So random, in fact, that I had to rewind the picture to make sure I hadn’t missed some key scene.
I hadn’t. The movie switches gears without warning, and in doing so loses the viewer. But everything that comes before is such a pleasure that the switch-up doesn’t hurt things too much. By this time, we’re hooked in with enjoyable characters and a sparkling cast that we’re willing to ride out the last chunk of film, just to see where it takes us, just to get an extra half hour with these stars.And what stars they are. Lau and Cheng are naturals on screen, and their dialogue drips from their tongues like the best romantic screen couples. The two work effortlessly together. Seeing their interplay reminds us how much fun it can be to simply watch two actors together, wrapped up in their own charms. It’s this feeling that keeps “Yesterday” rolling, even through the rough patches. Even those unfamiliar with Asian cinema will have a nice time watching two movie stars do their thing.
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