Running Time: 125 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR
Format: Standard 4:3
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Region: 1

Own It!
God of Gamblers (1990) (Import)

This movie was one of Chow Yun Fat's biggest hits, and it spawned many, many imitators. God of Gamblers may be the very definition of a Hong Kong pop movie, with comedy, drama, and tragedy thrown together at random with a paper-thin plot. However, the charisma of the actors and a couple of neat set-pieces guarantee that this film is watchable, even outside of Hong Kong.

Ko Chun (Chow) is the best gambler in the world. Actually, to even call what he does gambling is a misnomer. There is no chance involved. He can tell how dice will fall by listening to them in the tumbler, he can keep track of every tile in a mahjong game, and he can make whatever card he needs appear in his hand as if by magic.

At the behest of a Japanese businessman, Ko agrees to take on a seemingly invincible Taiwanese gambler. But before the arrangements for the match can be made, Ko suffers a bad fall, and he is struck with amnesia that reduces him to the mental level of a 5-year-old. He is found by a low-level grifter (Andy Lau) and his girlfriend (Joey Wang), who soon realize they can exploit Ko's still-potent gambling skills.

Meanwhile, Ko's treacherous partner kills Ko's girlfriend and has sex with her corpse. This kind of bizarre, almost casual violence may seem out of place in what is essentially a more comedic take on Rain Man, but it serves as a good example of the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach taken by the most popular Hong Kong films.

Will Ko come back to his senses? Will everybody, good and bad, get what he or she deserves? That would be a very safe bet.

Chow Yun Fat is excellent as both the suave and infantile versions of Ko. Andy Lau is less annoying than usual, and you have to love Joey Wang just 'cause she's so cute. The gambling scenes are fun, though the English subtitles inflicted upon this movie since the beginning make it tough to tell what's going on in the card games.

Sadly, this DVD from Mei Ah is full screen, cropping some compositions badly. Occasionally, even the subtitles are cropped on the sides. And if that isn't bad enough, the English subtitles (burned on the image, and totally incoherent) are often cut off by the overscan at the bottom of my monitor. I would say that I could read them less than 10% of the time, but only because the image occasionally "floats" from shot to shot, sometimes drifting up far enough for the subtitles to be readable.

This is the same transfer that has been on HK video and LD for years. On DVD the video looks a little more colorful and detailed than VHS but not much more different than the LD. The sound is scratchy and indistinct. This pressing is now out of print, raising hopes that someone will put out a proper transfer.

A fullscreen trailer is included.

Scott Hamilton, 7/14/00