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Original Title:
Du Shen

Hong Kong 1989

Comedy, Drama, Action

Wong Jing

Chow Yun-Fat
Andy Lau
Joey Wong
Charles Heung
Cheung Man
Lung Fong
Ronald Wong
Shing Fui-On
Michiko Nishiwaki

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God of Gamblers

Story: Ko Chun (Chow Yun-Fat) is a master of gambling games. His extraordinary talent, his almost supernatural skills concerning his ability to count cards and to hear how the dices roll, made people give him the name "God of Gamblers".
At the request of a Japanese gambler Ko is going to have a match against gangster and professional gambler Chan. However, right before his game he walks into a childish trap set by street punk Knife (Andy Lau), who wanted to get back at an Indian. Ko hits his head when he is caught in the trap. When he regains consciousness Ko has the mental abilities of a 10-year old child. Knife, who is trying to make a living by earning some money as a amateur gambler, hoping that one day he can afford a better life with his girlfriend Jane (Joey Wong), takes care of Ko and soon realizes that Ko has a sixth sense for gambling.
While Knife makes use of his new, yet somehow dim-witted partner, Ko is already chased after by a group of gangsters, who want to see him dead. One of them is Ko's former chauffeur, who wants to claim Ko's girlfriend Janet (Cheung Man) for himself.
Ko Chun may have the mental abilities of a child, but not for nothing he earned the title "God of Gamblers" and he proves once again that he still has some tricks up his sleeve.

Review: "God of Gamblers" caused a real boom of gambling movies hitting the screen back in the day. Furthermore, there have been two sequels popping up. If you expect a true Chow Yun-Fat action flick including dual-guns-style you'll be disappointed, because comedy is the name of the game. Even though most of the time the humour will only get a smile out of you, it's really worth it to see the dream-team Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau in action, especially since they are in the prime of their life. The chemistry between the two is just perfect and even if you oftentimes are reminded of "Rain Man" which came out just a year prior to "God of Gamblers", the two at least deliver a performance as good as the one from Cruise/Hoffman!

At the beginning Chow Yun-Fat is really convincing as the charismatic and calculating professional player, who doesn't only know how to intimidate his opponents with a gaze, but also has a few additional skills. Dressed in expensive suits and with lots of gel in his hair, it's only his addiction to chocolate that gives him a bit of a nonserious yet humane appearance. Nonetheless, it really starts to be fun for the viewer when we see Chow as a guy who has lost his memory, whining like a baby. When he doesn't get his chocolate (of course he only wants the one from the expensive brand) then it's crying time and he pouts at least for the next five minutes. With his portrayel of the weepy child, which is interested in everything but gambling, Chow Yun-Fat proves once again, that he is one of the big names among actors. But he isn't the only one giving a great performace in his double role. His partner Andy Lau, who is playing the good-for-nothing Knife, also puts a lot of effort into his role. At first he seems to be a bit cheap and selfish, but soon enough we realize that he actually has a heart and that his wish to become rich is mainly because he wants to provide his girlfriend with everything she wants. Even though Lau does give an excellent performance he is sadly oftentimes outacted by Chow.

Apart from some tension-filled gambling sequences, director Wong Jing's work, who meanwhile has an impressive list of movies to his credit, but nevertheless hasn't really a good reputation among HK-cinema fans, also features some action scenes. Yes, in one of the shoot-outs we are also fed with what we can't get enough of: the god of dual-guns Yun-Fat himself is back in action again, if only for a short sequence. Aside from that there are also some bone-cracking stunts that really have to be seen. It never ceases to amaze me that in Hong Kong most of the stars do a great number of the dangerous stunts themselves. Especially Andy Lau impresses with some great death-defying stunts.
Thanks to the movie's theme and the efforts of the two main actors, the movie also doesn't lack a necessary amount of drama. Nevertheless, first and foremost "God of Gamblers" is a comedy, which can't deliver real laugh-out-loud humour, however, it always manages to be amusing, mainly because of Yun-Fat.

Of course the movie has some flaws, e.g. the death of a close friend, which is dealt with way too quickly and therefore loses any emotional impact, or the repetitive soundtrack. If you don't end up humming B J Thomas' "Raindrops keep falling on my Head" for the rest of the evening after watching this flick then you really are a lucky guy...
Due to a good finale with some surprising twists and two main actors in top form this "classic" surely is recommendable, even though it only serves the viewer with shallow entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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