Maybe there is a reason that the Communist Chinese government is cracking down on tax fraud in the country because how the hell is Chow Yun-fat worth 700 million dollars? Chinese actors seem to make bank in their home country and for good reason because if it wasn’t for Chow Yun-fat, Project Gutenberg would be a confusing unwatchable dumpster fire (with subtitles).
Project Gutenberg begins as a story of a convicted counterfeit artist Lee Man (Aaron Kwok), Lee is known for taking famous art and making his own copies that look exactly like the real thing. Of course, nobody wants to pay top dollar for a copy so the down on his luck Lee Man meets an intriguing personality named Painter (Yun-fat) who wants to bring him on as a forger. But instead of forging paintings, Painter wants to forge new American currency for his buyers. Lee Man joins the team and makes updated American dollars to perfection; however, he quickly learns that the Painter has a far more sinister side than he ever bargained for. Unfortunately, by the time he realizes, it’s far too late to get out.
The problem here is that the story is more convoluted than it ever needs to be. The story progression is unengaging at the start but once it gets going, the tone goes from 0-100 to the point you don’t understand what this film is supposed to be. One minute you are watching an episode of CSI, the next minute you are in a scene straight out of an Expendables film. Chow Yun-fat’s portrayal as a psychotic criminal with an ax to grind is compelling to a point.
When the 3rd act comes around, the film falls apart as the surprise twist causes more confusion than amusement. So much so that the film has to spend the next 20-25 minutes explaining all the gaping plot holes that are presented because of the twist ending. By the time the credits roll, you have no idea what the hell just happened or which character is who and what was the point of the entire setup. Project Gutenberg takes a good setup and throws it against a wall trying to be more clever than it needs to be.