The God of Gamblers
1989, R, 126 min. Directed by Wang Jing. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau, Wong Tso-Yin.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 16, 1993
Hong Kong's second-highest-grossing film of all time (somewhere behind John Woo, I suspect) is a remarkable amalgamation of gambling, farce, Hong Kong gangster shoot-'em-ups, and... chocolate. Ultra-suave Chow Yun-Fat is Ko-Chun, the legendary God of Gamblers, a man so lucky at games of chance that he literally never loses. When a chance accident delivers a brutal blow to his head, Ko-Chun is stricken with amnesia and reduced to a state of infantilism, with a sudden, massive craving for chocolates. Taken in by a group of small-time hoods and poor-luck gamblers, he is nursed back to health and used by them to win high-stakes games. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, right-hand man, and bodyguard are searching for him high and low, but so are a seemingly endless barrage of assassins sent by an old gambling enemy. Double- and triple-crosses crop up all over the place, and the film has more plot twists than a Sue Grafton novel. All of this occurs at roughly the speed of sound until the explosive ending in which -- surprise! -- all is revealed. This is Hong Kong cinema at its finest, and Chow Yun-Fat has never been better. If you've never seen him in action, try to picture an Asian Cary Grant/Harrison Ford/Sean Connery mix, only better. I'd even go so far to say he may be the most charismatic actor I've ever seen -- he's that good. Director Jing may not be John Woo's equal when it comes to explosive editing, but he's no slouch, either: this story moves like a luge, jumping from comedy to bloodshed in an adrenaline-overdosed heartbeat. Whew!