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God Of Gamblers
cast: Chow Yun-fat, Andy Lau, Joey Wong, Cheung Man, and Michiko Nishikawa

writer and director: Wong Jing

125 minutes (18) 1990
widescreen ratio 16:9
Hong Kong Classics DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
As the mysterious Ko Chun, Chow Yun-fat is the king of cool - a master of every game of chance or skill from mah-jong to poker, he's comfortably at home in both seedy Hong Kong gambling dens and swanky American casinos. His supernatural talents as an internationally renowned cardsharp win the respect and admiration of his peers, and the bitter resentment of his rivals. Chun is always playing with a full deck and an ace up his sleeve, and his kung fu at the tables is simply the best. He is 'Do San' - the God of gamblers.
   Despite enjoying the flamboyantly wealthy lifestyle of a triad kingpin, Chun is shortly down on his luck when an accidental fall leaves him with a severe case of amnesia. Reduced to the infantile state of a chocolate-obsessed teenage retard (played for laughs, but carefully avoiding the unappealing tone that such a role would doubtless attract if they'd cast a lesser actor), the once legendary Chun disappears into obscurity, thanks to his traitorous partner, and is unwittingly involved in the overambitious hustling schemes of petty crook Knife (Andy Lau). Although most of the heroics are performed by Lau, and later by Chun's quietly indomitable bodyguard Dragon, there is one almighty gun battle in a garage that sees Chow briefly more assertive in his usual two-gun screen persona and, in the shopping arcade, film buffs will certainly get a kick out of the neat parody (as a pram tumbles down an escalator), of the arresting railway station sequence in De Palma's The Untouchables (1987), which was itself a homage to the Odessa Steps montage in The Battleship Potemkin (1925).
   Later, when he's knocked down by a car, Chun's memory returns just in time for his showdown with enemies old and new, in a high-stakes game using cards marked in the villains' favour. Although other Hong Kong filmmakers helped spawn a 1990s' subgenre of gambling themed comedy action with sequels and a prequel to Wong Jing's immensely successful God Of Gamblers, it wasn't until 1994 that Chow Yun-fat reclaimed his role in Return Of The God Of Gamblers. This first film, by far the best of its kind, deals out as much amusing low-brow humour as hard-edged violence (earning its 18 certificate with a knife fight and an attempted rape), and its various macho elements are leavened by the presence of Joey Wong as Knife's cute girlfriend Jane.
   The DVD release is a two-disc package with an anamorphic transfer and Dolby digital sound on the 125-minute original Cantonese cut with re-mastered English subtitles, plus exclusive interviews with the main stars and director, extensive biographical and filmography info, stills gallery, and theatrical trailers. Disc two features the English-dubbed international version, which is five minutes shorter.