Unintentionally the first in a series of "Lucky Stars" films, Winners and Sinners is a Hong Kong kung-fu crime-story police comedy. Those of you who have seen a few Hong Kong action comedies will recognize this chaotic mix to be business as usual. Director Sammo Hung, apart from starring in the film coordinating the fights, also ropes Peking Opera buddy Jackie Chan into co-starring in the film as well. The third of the Three Dragons, Yuen Biao, has a cameo as well.
The film opens with five small-time crooks arriving in prison on the same day, and forming a circle of friends who share the same cell. Upon their release (also all on the same day), the five buddies move in together and start the "Five Stars Cleaning Service." Of course, the five of them as a group will get into more trouble combined than they ever could individually, but as Sammo's character "Teapot" says, friendship is what's most important.
The plot (as if one were necessary with this bunch of clowns on screen) revolves around a counterfeiting ring and the unwitting involvement of the cleaners, and also deals with the attempts of four of the friends to woo the sister of the fifth. Although the stooge-like antics of the group are certainly the film's mainstay (a highlight is one character's attempts to mystically achieve invisibility, leading him to a naked romp through the house), the film's best moments are in its action sequences, during which the portly Sammo single-handedly kicks extras around the set. Chan's scenes are only occasional and brief, but they punctuate the film nicely and it's great to see him in a movie in which he isn't the star.
Media Asia's presentation of Winners and Sinners is certainly better than any tape you're going to see, but as a DVD -- well, let's just say that it's not the disc you'll use to show off your system. Though the colors are washed out and the picture is fuzzy at times, you probably won't be watching for stuff like that. You should be watching Sammo go whammo.
The sound has some weird separation effects, with a few weird instances in which sounds will inexplicably move to the back speakers, but it's nice to know that the sound mix actually uses all five channels.
Unless you count subtitles in nearly a dozen different languages, the only special features of note are the trailer for this film and trailers for Dragons Forever, Wheels on Meals, and Young Master (the last of which also, inexplicably, contains footage of Bruce Lee from The Chinese Connection, and some scenes from a Chinese kung-fu comedy called The Private Eyes). The menus are somewhat obtuse, with the words "On Air" serving to start the feature and some cast/crew biographies presented in both Chinese and English. Not a stellar disc, but it belongs in the library of every kung-fu fanatic and is well worth a rental for those curious to see some very funny comedy and the always stimulating fight choreography of Sammo Hung.
Christopher Holland, 4/10/00