Second Time Around (2002) / Fantasy-Romance
Miu haan fook wood

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence and some language
Running time: 99 min.

Cast: Ekin Cheng, Cecilia Cheung, Jonathan Ke Quan, Annamaria Ambera
Director: Jeffrey Lau
Screenplay: Jeffrey Lau
Review published December 2, 2002

Upon first sight of the opening credits, either an homage to or a rip-off of The Matrix, depending on your perspective, you'll probably guess that Second Time Around is going to be a sci-fi flick dealing with alternate reality. That would be a mostly correct assumption but for the fact that this is actually a fantasy/romance more so than science fiction. The plotline doesn't involve a fictional reality like other films in recent years, so comparisons to The Matrix should end there. It falls more along the lines of Back to the Future Part II, where time travel causes more than one self to exist during the same point in time, as well as the similarly dark tone, ending with a good vs. evil self battling for existence.

Second Time Around stars Ekin Cheng (Running Out of Time 2, Help!!!) as Ren, one of the best card dealers in the world, but not quite THE best, so he and a friend named Sing (Quan, The Goonies) travel to Las Vegas to test his mettle against the pros.  Ren loses the fortune they've swindled from their old casino to the #1 dealer in Vegas, but are given some magical sacred stones by a woman they've helped to win while in the casino.  These stones are said to grant the ability to travel back in time in a parallel universe.  After a tragic car accident, which kills the woman and Sing, Ren is questioned by the police while in the hospital where he meets Tina (Cheung, Para Para Sakura), a detective on the case for the missing money.  The two don't get along, but through a fluke, Ren activates the stones and they are transported three days in the past, and they soon find themselves helping each other to change the future.

Time travel films always seem to carry quite a bit of overhead, as they deliver fascinating concepts and built-in intrigue, but also require great amounts of suspension of disbelief and, if handled improperly, can break a movie by becoming impossible to follow once the logic leaps become too complex. Second Time Around does manage to eke out enough entertainment value to recommend, but the film as a whole suffers by becoming too convoluted as the climax draws near. In addition, the ending asks us to believe one of the characters is a murderer without setting up any evidence that this person has the inclination or motivation to commit such a heinous act.

Although it isn't the most original premise in film, or even the most well-executed, Second Time Around is still moderately enjoyable if taken as pure escapist fare.  There aren't any real underlying themes or groundbreaking ideas to be found anywhere.  It just seeks to entertain, and on that level, it does its part in adequate fashion.  Because it is a time travel film, you might expect some plot holes and headache inducing paradoxes, and Second Time Around probably has more instances of this than most.  Ekin and Cecilia make a good pair, although Jonathan Ke Quan has little charisma and is probably only of interest for those who want to see Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom all grown up.

Provided that you can ignore the logistics of the time travel, the fact that Las Vegas is full of Cantonese speakers, and that the rules for gambling are a bit iffy as presented here, Second Time Around is worth watching if you're a fan of the leads, or just love Hong Kong films that try to be something a little bit different.  It's not a great movie or even memorable, but there's enough fun for at least one go around.  

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo