y never-ending enthusiasm for Time Travel movies is one of
the few things I can depend on about myself. Jeffrey Lau's Second Time Around
is a Time Travel movie, and like all Time Travel movies, it utilizes a
fantastical plot device to get our hero back in time, and employs the Back to
the Future theme of self-fulfilling prophecy and altering the future.
Second Time Around stars Ekin Cheng (A
Man Called Hero) as Ren, a flashy casino dealer who dreams of going to
Vegas and winning enough money to retire on. Ren shares the dream with Sing
(Jonathan Quan), his partner at the casino where they both work. After life
throws a curveball at Ren by way of a cheating fiancée, Ren and Sing steals
some money from their casino and hightails it to Vegas to find their fortune. In
Vegas, Ren is winning hand over fist until he encounters the casino's ace
dealer, a fellow name Jesus, who easily defeats Ren and dashes his dreams. On
their way back home, broke and beaten, Ren and Sing shares a ride with Anna, who
tells Ren about a magical amulet that can give people a second chance at life...
If you've never been to Las Vegas and all you had was this
movie to go by, you would swear that 8 out of 10 people you'll meet there were
of Chinese origin and can speak fluent Chinese. Or at least that's what it seems
like with Second Time Around, where every other person in the movie is
conveniently Chinese. To say that this "Chinese around every corner"
concept is a little exaggerated is an understatement, but this is after all a
Hong Kong production filmed in Nevada, and as such you need actors who can speak
Chinese for the home (in this case Hong Kong) audience. And so I was able to buy
this little fantasy without much trouble. Although I'm still bothered quite a
bit by the very cliché and highly dubious dialogue of American actors in Hong
Kong movies. Would it be so hard to hire an American writer to do the English
The plot device used to get Ren back in time to relive the
last few days and change what went wrong is gimmicky and even silly. Then again,
it's no sillier than Michael J. Fox driving a DeLorean backwards in time to meet
his own parents before he was even conceived. That is to say stepping into a
Time Travel movie and questioning the method of time travel is akin to going to
a gay pride parade and complaining that there's too many homosexuals around. You
knew what you were getting into, so don't whine about what you get. The real
thrust of Second Time Around is Ren trying to make up for mistakes of the
past, and to that end, the movie's Third Act is quite exciting, with some nice
twists that were (unexpected) pleasant surprises.
Second Time Around stars the usually stoic Ekin
Cheng, who I must admit to not being a big fan of. I've always accused the man
of letting his hair do most of his acting, and thankfully his Ren character in Second
Time Around, although flashy in fashion sense, has reasonably sane hair, and
thus allows the man to show some acting chops. Cheng is good and is even
likeable at times, but that's only because Jonathan Ke Quan (Sing) is not
onscreen nearly enough to steal the show.
Quan gives the movie's best
performance as Ren's gay best friend, who grew up admiring Ren. Quan is also the
movie's comic foil and offers the film most of its laugh-out loud moments.
That's not to say he's a strictly funny man, as the actor shows a lot of range
in the movie's (curiously shocking and unexpected) dramatic scenes. Cecilia
co-stars as Tina Chan, a Las Vegas Detective who chases Ren around town and is
accidentally sent back in time with him. Cecilia does fine in her role when
she's speaking Chinese, but her English is atrocious. Still, she is incredibly
easy on the eyes and her character was likeable, so there's not much to complain
The movie is directed by Jeffrey Lau, who makes good use of
the long stretches of Nevada desert landscape and bright lights of Las Vegas.
The film has very little special effects to speak of but that wasn't much of a
hindrance. Johnny Koo fills in as Second Time Around's cinematographer
and does a fair job with the outdoor scenes, although I must say that the
movie's insistence on using moving overhead shots in its interior scenes every
other third shot gets to be a little annoying.
Second Time Around is a good film with a hackneyed
romance between Cheng and Cheung, but taken for what it is -- a sci-fi Time
Travel film -- it's not half bad.