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Issue #189 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES December 8th, 2003

God of Gamblers' Return
(1994; Win's Movie Production)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Dao san 2
Mandarin: Du shen 2
English: God of Gamblers 2

Alternate English Titles: Battle of Champions, The Return of the God of Gamblers

One of Wong Jing's most enjoyable concoctions, this official sequel to his 1989 blockbuster delivers all the essentials in a slick, robust and disarming manner. Following his substantial triumph at the end of the first feature, Ko Chun (Chow Yun-fat) and his pregnant wife, Yau (Sharla Cheung Man, who played a different character last time out) are living a life of luxury in the South of France. Their idyllic paradise is invaded by the forces of psychopathic Taiwanese gambler Chau (Wu Hsin-kuo, appropriately speaking all of his lines in Mandarin), who seeks to challenge the now-retired Ko to a match. Finding only Yau at home, Chau kills her unborn baby, leaving Yau mortally wounded. In her dying words to Ko, she makes him vow not to reveal his identity or gamble for one year (a ridiculous plot contrivance, typical of Wong's films). Eleven and a half months later, a vacationing Ko befriends Hoi On (Blackie Ko Shou-liang), the head of a powerful Taiwan triad faction. When hitmen employed by Chau kill Hoi, Ko escapes to the Mainland with the gangster's young son (THE NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN's Xie Miao) in tow. Eluding the local security forces, the pair hook up with brother-and-sister scam artists "Little Trumpet" (Tony Leung Kar-fai) and "Little Guitar" (Jacklyn Wu Chien-lien) and manage to secure passage to Taiwan. There, they meet Hoi's daughter, Tong (Chingmy Yau Suk-ching), setting the stage for a decisive match between Ko and Chau. The stakes: $16 billion! Some behind-the-scenes skulduggery and a paranormal villain (Wong Kam-kong) figure in the outcome.

Like many of Wong's movies, the storyline's primary goal is to facilitate the inclusion of as many famous cast members as possible, with their relevance to the plot being of secondary concern (a major component in the first half, Xie Miao's character all but disappears halfway through). Regardless, GOD OF GAMBLERS' RETURN is terrific HK pop entertainment and essentially critic proof; delighted audiences made it the top-grossing HK film of 1994. How much you will tolerate its foolish aspects is in direct correlation to your knowledge of, and affection for, the players. This is hardly a challenging assignment for Chow but it provides him with ample opportunities to display his charm and that trademark grin. That's all he needs and it's all we need. Tony Leung Kar-fai manages to wring solid laughs out of some genuinely silly material and Jacklyn Wu handles both the comedic and sombre aspects of her role wonderfully well (she and Chow first appeared together in a TV commercial and they make a very photogenic couple). There is less gunplay than last time but it is well-choreographed and, in addition to the more obvious jests, there's also a great joke at the expense of actor/former triad enforcer Michael Chan Wai-man. Elvis Tsui Kam-kong, Pau Hon-lam (appearing again as his "Devil of Gamblers" character from the original), Lee Siu-kei, and Ken Lo Wai-kwong co-star, Bonnie Fu Yuk-ching ("Virgin" in FULL CONTACT) and Law Kar-ying have cameos, and co-producer Charles Heung Wah-keung reprises his role as Lung, Ko's ever-stoic Vietnamese protector.

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

Chow Yun-fat and Jacklyn Wu. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Chingmy Yau. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Wu Hsin-kuo. Image courtesy Mei Ah.
Mei Ah #DVD-577 (Hong Kong label)

Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0, DTS) and Mandarin (Dolby Digital 2.0) Language Tracks (both post-synced)

Optional Subtitles in English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)

10 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.79:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

124 Minutes

Contains moderate violence

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

Australia: M 15+ (Medium Level Violence)
Great Britain: 18
Hong Kong: II
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

Mei Ah's initial DVD was just a port of their old laserdisc transfer. Their new 16:9 edition is a definite improvement, looking sharper and much cleaner. Colors are also more distinctive, if slightly oversaturated. There are two instances where artificial slow motion has been employed to hide missing or damaged frames but it is a fleeting distraction that some viewers will not even notice. The film was originally mixed in Dolby Stereo to begin with, so the revamped Cantonese mix is not all that different but does enhance the action somewhat. However, the dialogue is fuzzy in spots and the Mandarin track is in low quality mono. The chapter menu is poorly designed, making it difficult to even find the cursor. Also, when played in my Sony S7000, the chapter select function was disabled, forcing me to go to the menu or manually jump from chapter-to-chapter. Some of the errors in the original English translation have been corrected but there are still quite a few, making one wish that Mei Ah would go the whole nine yards on these re-releases and re-do the subs from scratch. The original theatrical trailer is included, along with Mei Ah's useless Data Bank feature, and a 4 minute interview with Wong Jing (same subtitle options as the film). He discusses the origin of the Ko Chun character but says nothing about this film (it was likely recorded mainly for use on Mei Ah's anamorphic re-issue of the original). The clear keep case comes packaged in a cardboard sleeve, a la Intercontinental's Shaw Brothers discs.

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