Saint of Gamblers
Hong Kong 1995
Directed by Wong Jing.

Ng Man-Tat searches for a new gambling king in this sequel to All for the Winners. It should have been a wonderfully fun action-gambling Wong Jing extravaganza.

In case you are keeping track, or even still care, this film is another sequel to Stephen Chow's classic comedy, All for the Winner. But Saint of Gamblers is neither classic nor comedy. Instead, it brings the gambling genre to a new low. The main problem with this film is its star, Eric Kot, who is shoehorned into Stephen Chow's old role. As a comedian, Kot is a complete failure. What's worse, while I'm having a terrible, desperate time trying to sit through his antics, he always looks like he's about to break up laughing at how clever and funny he is. I hate it when people are having a good time at my expense. And whereas Stephen Chow could get by on his charisma when the jokes are flat, Eric Kot has none. Ng Man-Tat apparently felt he had to overcompensate for this -- as a result, he too is way over the top. It doesn't help.

The story this time concerns the 2nd International Gambling Competition. With the Saint of Gamblers having disappeared after the first one (some footage is shown from the end of God of Gamblers III), Uncle Tat(Ng Man-Tat) goes to Sing-Chi's old hometown on the mainland to find a new Saint of Gamblers. In town, EVERYONE has magical powers. But no one has the right kind of magic. It seems all in lost, until at last, and to my great dismay, he finds God Bless You(Eric Kot), dubs him the new Saint of Gamblers, and takes him to Hong Kong. Someone apparently thought giving him the name "God Bless You" would be funny. As it turns out, it isn't. And the way Eric Kot says his name, as if he is James Bond, stretching it out, pausing in the middle, takes it from the realm of the not funny into the truly boring.

In the meantime, the other gamblers in the competition are trying to kill each other, which comes as a great pleasure to the audience. The commentary on national identity that played out in God of Gamblers and God of Gamblers Returns is reduced to comic farce here. Each gambler represents a different country, and they are decked out like comic book characters come to life. They are also poor racial stereotypes come to life. The Indian representative is a snake charmer, the Japanese a sumo wrestler (yawn). Worst of all, the African representative is dressed like Michael Jackson. In fact, the one running joke in the film is that anyone who appears to be groping a boy or butt-raping someone is called a Michael Jackson. I never realized how good Police Academy IV was until I saw this film. Really gives you some perspective.

When God Bless You arrives in Hong Kong, he immediately falls in love with Yuen-Fan(Chingmy Yau). My stomach twisted a little at that moment, and I wondered if this was going to turn into some sort of gambling Of Mice and Men, and we would see God Bless You profess his love to her and start pawing on Yuen-Fan with his meaty, club-like hands, until he accidentally kills her, and Uncle Tat would have to take him down by the river and put a bullet in his brain.

If only we should be so lucky.

The contestants are eliminated one by one in seperate gambling rounds, until at last, all that remain are the Saint of Gamblers and Ray Thai, the gambling king of Macao, who inexplicably becomes the villain. Along the way we are kept occasionally entertained by a little kung-fu boy (Sik Siu-Lung) and the amazing clevage of the representative from Thailand. Another thing that makes the film bearable is that, for much of the middle, Eric Kot has to wear a mask that covers his face, thus relieving you of the burden of having to watch him mug for the camera in every scene. The mask made him look like Santos the wrestler. I feel that Santos would have been a better choice for the role. He could gamble with his opponents while wrestling with vampires and Aztec mummies and stuff.

Just when you think it can't get any worse, Donnie Yen shows up, playing the role of Lone Seven, brother of Lone Five, the Charles Heung character from the previous movies in the series. Perhaps Charles Heung knew better to appear in drek like this. Perhaps Donnie Yen did not. Donnie Yen puts in a few perfunctory kicks, picks up his paycheck, and wanders off, no doubt wondering where his career went. The last game plays out pretty much exactly the same as in All for the Winner, except without any point, entertainment value or emotional commitment from the audience or the cast.

I kept on thinking to myself, boy, I really should be enjoying this movie! It's wacky, over-the-top, there's clevage, and it's completely absurd and silly. How fun is that! But I just couldn't. It was painful to sit through. This is a good movie to put in when you have to do some chores around the house, maybe vaccuum, do the dishes. Surf the web. Leave the house for a few hours. You know, things like that.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 31, 2004.

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