Friday, June 19, 2009

Movies : Gambling then and now

The Top Bet (HK 1991)

No one can make films about gambling like HK cinema which so often gives a mystical bent to it. Here are two examples of HK gambling movies old and (slightly) new starting with The Top Bet which can be best described as bizarre HK gambling fun.

The Saint Of Gamblers has gone off on holiday but the Triad boss needs a top gambler to win the gambling championship. Uncle Ng Man-Tat is tasked to find someone to win or he gets a chopping. He happens upon the Queen of Gambling (Carol Cheng), basically a hard HK fisherwomen who does some card tricks. But she pretends to have magical powers in order to get the dough to help her paralysed brother. Still with me? No? Tough.

Meanwhile real magical powers arrive in the shape of the Saint's sister Mai (Anita Mui) from the mainland but she refuses to use her magical powers to help gambling and capitalist pigdog things (this was before the Communist Party discovered the love of cash of course). But then, with the Triad's rival is also getting help from psychic power, Mai decides to help the Queen in her battle against the bad guy with the help of magical card tricks and plenty of kung fu.

If you've seen a HK gambling movie before you know what to expect. Grand entrances in slow motion, sharp suits and stirring music. Plus a lot of slapstick humour and fun. Its ridiculous, its bizarre, its probably banal. But you'll love it.
Kung Fu Mahjong (HK 2005)

So lets move forward to a more recent example of a HK gambling movie, this time centred around mahjong. Now if you don't know how to play the game you probably won't learn how from watching this film, unless you want to know how to fire mahjong tiles from between your man breasts (yes you read that right).

Its a Wong Jing movie so you probably know what to expect. Wacky and bizarre HK comedy thats definately politically incorrect, and borrowing shamelessly from whatever is hip. This time he borrows from the popular TVB serial Life Made Simple and includes a character called Ah Wong so similiar to the serial's Ah Wong he might as well have used the same actor... so he did. Roger Kwok basically plays the same role as the mentally challenged waiter.

But he also has an incredible memory and loser hustler Yuen Weh decides to use this to win at mahjong big. Unfortunately he has to get by the imposing figure of Yuen Qiu (who looks fairly hot in a Bruce Lee jumpsuit, lets admit it). Basically they play similar roles from Kung Fu Hustle.

There is a love interest with ex-Cookie Theresa Fu but that seems to get forgotton as the film progresses. The main focus is on the mahjong. And its tile clicking good. You will either hate or love this film. I love it.
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.