New to Blu: 88 Films: God of Gamblers (1989) - Reviewed

Image courtesy of 88 Films

Wong Jin's 1989 film God of Gamblers was a massive hit with audiences and spawned a vast franchise with fourteen films counting various spin-offs. The film is a strange mix of hyper-stylized gambling sequences, goofy hi-jinks, whimsical comedy, and intense, bloody action scenes with no warning when it will shift gears to different genres.

Chow Yun-fat is Ko-Chun, the titular "God of Gamblers." He is a suave and collected man whose prowess in a myriad of games has made him legendary all over the globe. Ko-Chun always has his hair immaculately slicked back and a penchant for an expensive brand of chocolate called Fedora, which he can be seen savoring while playing his card games. Life has been good to Ko-Chun; he is rich, talented and has a beautiful girlfriend named Janet (Sharla Cheung) by his side. Unfortunately, his luck is about to run out.

In a parallel narrative, the film follows Knife (Andy Lau), a self-proclaimed gambler who is small-time and unknown. His demeanor and lifestyle are the opposite of Ko-Chun, and he idolizes him daily. After a high-stakes poker match goes array, Ko-Chun and Knife's paths cross after Ko-Chun sustains a grievous head injury. Luckily, the accident did not kill him, but Ko-Chun has lost his memory and has regressed to a child-like state. Here, the film shifts to a Rain Man (1988) style set-up with Knife simultaneously babysitting Ko-Chun (nicknamed Chocolate) and trying to take advantage of his latent gambling powers.

It is entertaining to watch Chow Yun-fat's performance as Chocolate, as he skips around stuffing confectionaries in his mouth with a permanent dopey grin on his face. The tone during this act is extremely silly, with lots of slapstick and ridiculous situations. Chocolate's gambling powers border on magical as he can somehow change cards into different ones at will, which is never explained. The script for this film never really settles on one theme or narrative, preferring instead to use whatever means necessary to move from one plot point to the next, not caring whether it makes logical sense.

Without warning, the film shifts into action overdrive, and Chocolate unleashes his inner Hard Boiled onto a bunch of thugs (although it is never established at any point that Ko-Chun is a skilled fighter). The climax is even more over the top, with kooky James Bond-style super gadgets and the like. Through all of this madness, however, the film never stops being stylish and well-filmed, and the actors do well in their respective roles. One has to go with the flow and accept all the random wackiness that ensues, not unlike someone playing a game of dice; you never know where they will land.

Image courtesy of 88 Films


Limited Edition Double Walled Slipcase with art by Sean Longmore

Limited Edition Double-sided foldout poster

Limited Edition Booklet Notes by Paul Bramhall

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation

Original Cantonese Mono with English Subtitles & SDH

Alternate Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA with English Subtitles & SDH

English Mono Dub

Audio Commentary with Hong Kong Cinema Expert David West

Audio Commentary with Hong Kong Cinema Experts Frank Djeng and F.J. DeSanto

Archive Interview with Chow Yun Fat,

Archive Interview with Andy Lau

Two Archive Interviews with  Wong Jing

English Titles

Hong Kong Trailer

English Trailer

Stills Gallery

Reversible cover with new art by Sean Longmore and original Hong Kong Poster

--Michelle Kisner