God of Gamblers III - Back to Shanghai
Hong Kong 1991
Directed by Wong Jing.

Stephen Chow and Ng Man-Tat are swept back to Shanghai 1937 by a vengeful group of superpowered villains. He meets his grandfather and sings about Pork Buns. Oh, and there's some gambling thrown in as well.

With each sequel, we lose another star. Chow Yun-Fat was the first to go. Now Andy Lau has disappeared, leaving us with Stephen Chow and Ng Man-Tat. But who's complaining? This film is hilarious, relentless, action-packed, and sometimes just downright weird. And yet it does logically progress from the films that came before and is a satisfying entry in the series.

The Saint of Gamblers(Stephen Chow) has just returned from six months of study with the famed God of Gambers. In the meantime, the glass-eyed villain from the previous film gets a group of his psychic powered friends together to enact revenge on Sing Chi for his earlier, humiliating defeat. They can wield fireballs, control metal, throw lightning bolts, and create illusions. Their battle against Sing Chi and Uncle Tat(Ng Man-Tat) is more reminiscent of Superman II than of any gambling movie I've ever seen!

The villains combine their powers to send our heroes back into the past -- 1937 Shanghai, to be exact. There, Sing Chi meets his grandfather, played very effeminitely by Ng Man-Tat, and gets into the thick of things -- befriending the powerful Ding Lik (Ray Lui), head of Shanghai's grand Casino, and fighting against the Japanese and the villainous Chinese collaborators. Sing Chi brought a cell phone along with him to the past, which enables him to communicate occasionally with Brother 5(Charles Heung), and the police Commissioner "Scissors Legs" Wong, who are still in the present.

This film just never stops. Pauses between the action are filled with outrageous comedy. The interaction between Stephen Chow and Ng Man-Tat has never been better. I've found that even if you don't particularly like Stephen Chow's comedy, or even if you don't like the movie itself very much, there's always one or two real comic gems in his films. This one is no exception. When he and Ng Man-Tat attempt to kill Ding Lik using a knife, then poison, then a snake, it is classic Stephen Chow comedy. And toward the end of the movie there's a wonderfully inventive bit with Commissioner "Scissor Legs" Wong.

No comedy is complete without a strong straight man. And the ever honorable Ray Lui filles that role to perfection, giving a sense of dignity to the proceedings. And as for the love interest, we have Gong Li, suprisingly cast in a dual role, as herself and her twin sister. And even more suprising, she is able to act distinctively enough in the two roles for one to be able to tell which is which. I say this is suprising because typically Gong Li doesn't differentiate her performance very much from one movie to another. And she plays great sorrow and great happiness and indifference with the exact same facial expression. Dare I say this movie has one of Gong Li's best performances? Well, no. But still, she's pretty good here.

I was a little upset about Gong Li being in the film, actually...what happened to Cheung Man? She has been a staple of the series from the start, and I was disappointed that she wasn't present. I needn't have worried, though, since she does appear in a brief cameo. And Charles Heung is able to show up for the traditional gun slaughter at the end of the picture.

But what about gambling? There really isn't much to speak of. A casino scene early on, then a climactic game at the end, but neither scene really rises above the surrounding story, nor stay in the memory for very long. More likely after seeing God of Gamblers, Part III you will remember Sing Chi helping his Grandfather open up a pork buns restaurant that looks like McDonalds, and the song and dance number that accompanies the grand opening. But the gambling? It seems at last that the gambling genre has played itself out. There was really nothing new here to do with gambling, so the film focuses on other aspects of the plot. Whereas in God of Gamblers the most climactic and exciting moments are at the gambling table, here those scenes are almost a lull in the action. Perhaps the filmmakers finally realized that if everyone has special magical powers that they can use when they gamble, it's just not much fun anymore. This would be the last gambling film Stephen Chow would appear in until Tricky Master 2000, which was released in the summer of 1999. So when, three years after God of Gamblers, Part III, Wong Jing was ready to produce the next film in the series, God of Gamblers Returns, fans were excited to find out that, at long last, the God himself, Chow Yun-Fat, would return to the role.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 31, 2004.


Anyone know what the name of the song is from the movie??

Posted by: incubus8 at September 5, 2005 03:08 AM
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