15 February 2019 | moviexclusive
Contrary to its title, there is nothing worth treasuring, or even remembering, about this string of lame gags that wastes the sheer amount of Hong Kong veteran talent here
Arriving a little later than the bumper crop of Lunar New Year titles last week, 'A Lifetime Treasure' wraps a well-intentioned message about treasuring the elderly around some less-than-inspired scenes of nonsensical humour. Directed and co-written by Andrew Lam Man-chung, the basic premise of the comedy-drama sees the five residents of a nursing home teaming up with their superintendent (played by Lam himself) to thwart the efforts of a mobster Rainy Hung (Lam Suet) who wants to take over and redevelop the place. Whether these five residents succeed in their quest to preserve their On Hei Nursing Home is a foregone conclusion, especially how this is ultimately a Lunar New Year title meant to leave its audience feeling merry.
In what is undoubtedly five strokes of casting gold, Lam has enlisted Hong Kong cinema veterans Sammo Hung, Teddy Robin, Bruce Leung, Richard Ng and Tien Niu as the elderly quintet of the nursing home. Watching these veterans ribbing each other while hamming it up in their respective roles should be an absolute riot, what with Hung as the world's greatest detective still obsessed over a thirty-year-old case of a golden pig figurine that he never solved, Robin as a master thief who likes to be called by his English name Ben Chow, Ng as a former ace swimmer dubbed 'wind-on-the-water', Leung as a former intelligence operative known as the 'wind listener', and Niu as a former singing diva. Naturally, these five individuals are each still enamoured with their previous glories, while at the same time more than happy to mock their other four companions for doing so.
Indeed, it would be logical to expect that Lam would build his movie around these five seemingly unique individuals, but alas you'll quickly find out that it isn't to be. Oh yes, the emphasis here is instead on Hung's two lackeys Chun (Louis Cheung) and Lok (Bob Lam), who are despatched to intimidate the residents and/or force the closure of the facility. As you may expect, Chun and Lok find themselves outwitted by the surprisingly resourceful bunch; not only that, both will also have their conscience pricked, so much so that they will end up assisting the old folks to launch a counter-offensive against their former boss - oh, and the fact that Lok has a crush on the home's one and only tenacious nurse Ching (Ivana Wong) might have something to do with why he has a change of heart.
Yet Lam does none of his characters little justice by burying them amidst a string of inane gags, which are so lackadaisically conceived you'd wonder if they were made up on the set. One extended sequence has the five elders cast as zombies in a scene for a B-grade movie named 'Zombie Bathrobe', where they proceed on the set to ogle over buxom actress Xenia Chong clad in a bikini. Another extended one has them breaking into Hung's office to steal a contract that would determine the fate of their nursing home, complete with a spoof scene straight out of 'Mission: Impossible' and another dramatically exaggerated one where Ng is shot by a tennis-ball cannon. And yet another has Leung suddenly transforming into a kung-fu master, just so he can have a one-on-one with 'The Legend is Born: Ip Man's' Dennis To.
You'll be hard-pressed to find any truly inspired moments, especially given how the movie seems perfectly content to trade in silly, childish and even crass humour. As paradoxical as it may sound, it still takes wit to engineer some truly nonsensical 'mo lei tau' jokes, which is sorely absent here. And just like that, Lam pretty much squanders the talent of the ensemble cast he has assembled here - not only do Cheung and Lam find themselves with little to work with, the five veterans come up equally bereft, often clearly resorting to improvisation just to fill up their scenes. If Lam's writing falls short, his directing is just as lacking, failing to stitch up the string of gags into a coherent or engaging whole.
Not even a late poignant finish can save this limp movie, which gathers a to-die-for cast for a Lunar New Year movie and leaves them floundering. Like we said at the start, there is a noble lesson here on treating the elderly as treasure, but that is unfortunately lost amidst a clumsy collection of unfunny scenes. Among the Lunar New Year titles we've seen this year, we dare say this is the worst of the lot, which probably explains why it didn't manage much of a reception even in its home territory. There is frankly little to cherish here, even if we wanted to be generous to it, so save your 'ang pow' money for something better worth your treasure.