Jeff Lau has directed some of Hong Kong’s most inventive comedies — films such as All for the Winner, Eagle Shooting Heroes, Chinese Odyssey and others. He’s been absent from the screen since Black Rose in 1997, so it’s great to see him back behind the lens — particularly with Johnnie To in the producer’s chair.
The result is Second Time Around, which is a time travelling gambling comedy romance drama. If that’s defying classification, that’s because Jeff Lau films often do; he pursues a story with a sensibility that is entirely his own. Second Time Around is energetically inventive.
Ren (Ekin Cheng) and Sing (Jonathan K) are dealers at a US casino. Ren persuades Sing to steal a big bag o’ cash from his former employer, and together they strike out to Las Vegas and quickly blow the lot. Things get worse after that, and there are also many strange and inexplicable events. Due to a chance meeting with a woman who possesses “Stones of Resurrection” (they come with a free metaphysics lecture, which involves wack time theories illustrated with drinking straws), Ren gets the chance to go back in time and try to make things right.
In between all this he manages to fall in love with a cop (Cecilia Cheung), but is soon caught in a bizarre love triangle between his former self, his future self, her former self and her future self. Events which were previously inexplicable are suddenly completely logical. If that sounds confusing, it is, but it’s also wacky fun, particularly when you get to see Ekin beat the shit out of himself.
It doesn’t all quite tie up, but it’s enjoyable to see a Hong Kong film take a stab at intricate plotting, which is occasionally let down by outright silliness (such as a deadpan scene between four people in which two of them are naked). It kept me guessing while it was running, and I’ve been trying to unravel the time streams in my head since; so, my past and current selves recommend it to you.