another long-winded review for everyone:
“We’ll call him God of Shits instead.” – man about to lose over 10 million dollars.
“Great I’ll be Donald Trump.” – Sing (Stephen Chow)
“Don’t rape women. “How about men?” “That’ll be fine.””
“I lost all my special power. I’m leaving.” – Tai Kun: one of the better henchman exit lines.
Talk about quick and talk about ersatz. Director Wong Jing had a mega-hit in God of Gamblers the year before. Jeff Lau and Corey Yuen created a semi-spoof in All for the Winner a few months before this film which was an even bigger hit and made Stephen Chow a star. So Wong Jing had his peanut butter and chocolate idea to combine the two. It was also a hit and the gambling cycle of films was in full bloom like a bizarre looking butterfly out of its cocoon and would have a lifespan almost as long. Just a few weeks before King of Gambler came out (not related, not a hit and I have not seen it yet.) So even without hindsight it seemed inevitable that God of Gamblers 2 (the Chinese title is Knight of Gamblers) would be birthed and Wong Jing would direct it. It was almost inevitable that this would going to be a gigantic hit, though did not quite make as much money of All for the Winner which was 41.3 million HK dollars compared to the 40.3 million here.
It starts off just like the first film in San Francisco but here we have the God of Gambler’s surrogate Michael Chan the Knight of Gamblers (Andy Lau) showing off his abilities while eating chocolate, having gelled hair and playing with his jade pinky ring. He is more suave than the first film, though Chow Yun-fat is certainly missed by me while his character is retired and hiding out in South America. However, Sing, the Saint of Gamblers, is still bumbling and Stephen Chow-like, in tow with Uncle Tat (Ng Man-tat) except he has a few new nifty abilities like the “penetrating eye”, and the ability to make himself invisible (its effectiveness reminds me somewhat of Invisible Boy in Mystery Men) that come and go at the whims of the script or lack of one. Sing wants to apprentice under the original Ko Chun and the way to get to him is through the Knight of Gamblers. But since Chow Yun-fat did not want to be in this film that is not going to happen (joking aside I believe he was contracted with John Woo’s Once a Thief at the time which had started filming in November of 1990).
But not too many people know who the Knight of Gamblers actually is. Hussein (Tan Lap-man), show foster father was the Beast of Gamblers in the first film, has an idea to impersonate the Knight and hold an offshore (the old international waters idea that you can get away with murder) tournament in the name of charity. But first he has to eliminate the possible competition in Michael Chan and Sing. Luckily Chan’s bodyguard has a sister in the Hong Kong police force Lung Kau “Kowloon” (Monica Chan in her second film) to help protect them. Unluckily Dream Lo (a dead ringer for Beautiful Dream from the first film, of course played by the same actress Sharla Cheung Man) is forced to work for Hussein and is ultimately used against Sing. Somehow we all know that this film is going to culminate with a poker game. It has too, it is in the cards.
As always with Wong Jing it pays not to think too much. Some of the logic lapses in this film is too much even for Wong. What gambler would accept losing to a half-eaten card? Why would the bodyguard Lung Ng would leave them alone during a gun battle and go off on a motorcycle? Though one might also wonder why Lau puts on a complete new set of clothes while in the middle of the gun battle scene and so does Lung. Talk about some continuity problems. There are more logic lapses than a Corey Yuen gun battle (action director Paul Wong Kwan is stronger with fighting scenes than gun battles). Also why would Sing try to change a card when he knows his powers are mostly gone? And according to the rules of the first film (losing his power for a period of time) it makes even less sense. How in the world during the first conference on the boat by the evil Hussein does the press not notice the two kidnapped individuals with silencers to their head and Tat with a stuffed mouth? The press are even looking in that direction. And the Indian from the first film transformed into a Kuwaitian though strangely the film mentions both, so either subtitles are off, it is supposed to be two characters or Wong Jing’s fault which tends to be my default. One might also wonder how many scenes you can shamelessly insert Chow Yun-fat into (if there were too many more times it might have ended up a gambling version of Game of Death.)
The main reason to watch this is Stephen Chow in his first collaboration with Wong Jing. He is one of my favorite comedians. His influences are from everywhere from the USA to Hong Kong. You see a Warner Bros. cartoon influence especially on scenes like where the chair he was about to sit in was kicked out from underneath him, but since he does not know it he stays in sitting position much like Wil E. Coyote. The nunchuck plunger gag (one cannot get enough plunger gags also in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) is not only a Bruce Lee reference, but also a Michael Hui homage when Hui did a similar Bruce Lee influenced gag in The Private Eyes. With Chow’s increasing stardom he would often be called the heir apparent to Michael Hui (though without as much social criticism as Hui.) But his strange amalgam of verbal, visual, slapstick, absurd humor is quite unique.* He also created one of the worst calling card videos I have ever seen.
I would recommend watching this only if you have seen the previous two films. Too many in-jokes, characters and references would be missed. I also think that it is probably better to wait a little time between watching all three films because too many gags are repeated. This film sometimes feels as fresh as Bernie in Weekend at Bernies. According to John Charles in The Hong Kong Filmography (2000), a book I highly recommend for HK fans, the flashback scenes reference both Swordsman and A Terracotta Warrior. Overall I enjoy it even with the sense of déjà vu. It is just that every aspect of the movie is not as good as the previous two including action, fighting, original comedy and the card games (though technically Wong Jing in the first film was “influenced” from Norman Jewison’s The Cincinnati Kid.) But it is funny in many scenes some of which were mentioned above. I liked this movie most the first time I saw it while subsequent rewatches do not hold up as much as the previous two. This was followed by God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai the following year.
I saw this on the Mei Ah R0/NTSC “A Grand Collection of God of Gamblers II” which has this movie and God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai on another disc. This movie is anamorphic widescreen, has Cantonese (Original, Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, DTS) and Mandarin (Original) audio tracks while subtitles are Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and English. The subtitles are not bad and the print looks decent. Special Features are a Trailer (1:49m), Data Bank (which is Synopsis and Cast & Crew in Chinese and English), and Best Buy which is a God of Gamblers III trailer (2:39m).
* It is important to remember that very little is unique and comedy is no exception. Michael Hui was influenced by Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers was influenced by Jacques Tati. I believe Tati was influenced by Charles Chaplin. Chaplin was influenced by Pantomime Theater, early Roscoe Arbuckle and Max Linder. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Keywords: butterfly knife, derringer gun, Filipino maid, Guan Yu, gwailo, handheld camera, handover (Tat mentions it), Michael Jackson, moleitau, undercranking, smiling watch, straight flush, “We Give You Good American Mind Mac Beth” t-shirt hoodie, worst bow tie ever.
Since you have two popular entertainers I noticed Ronald Wong Ban’s Crawl character gets a much smaller role than the first film.
Nice little in-gag with the Kam & Ronson Ent. Col, LTD computer program.
One of the many Hong Kong films of this time to reference the upcoming handover.
[rhetorically] Why does Lung Ng’s jacket have print on it?
Nice little body fall from bodyguard (33 minutes in) from second story through glass straight onto the ground. Watch his body bounce.
The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997 (2000) by John Charles: he gives this a 7/10. I am a little surprised he only gives the first God of Gamblers 6/10.
At the Hong Kong Movies (1999) by Paul Fonoroff: He does not like it as much as All for the Winner. But he liked Chow more and more when he was not always thrilled with the earliest Chow films. It is a fair review and he makes the not too difficult prediction that it will do well at the box office. I would not have known the Kowloon joke without this.
Planet Hong Kong 2nd Edition (2011) by David Bordwell: Check out the chapter “Whatever You Want: Wong Jing” and also there is a good amount of info on the gambling cycle of films.
John Woo: The Films (1999) by Kenneth E. Hall: I got the schedule of John Woo’s Once a Thief from here. It also describes how this film was delayed for a considerable amount of time which could explain why Chow Yun-fat was not in God of Gamblers II.
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