God of Gamblers 3: The Early Stage

After a break of five years, Hong Kong director Wong Jing and production company Win's revive the "God of Gamblers" franchise to generally interesting results, with a new generation of stars who've appeared in the meantime (Leon Lai, Anita Yuen) freshening up the formula and more attention paid to production values. Film did warm but not hunky business in H.K. at the end of last year, and should join other entries in the same genre as a nifty video item for Western buffs. Film is basically a prequel to the 1989 original that starred Chow Yun-fat as unbeatable cardsharp Ko Chun. Actor-singer Lai essays Ko three years earlier when he's still a low-profile pupil of super-gambler Kent, who adopted him as a kid. Kent enters him in a competition in Macau to find the world's greatest cardsharp, betrays him and gets his godson to win instead. With the help of a triad's daughter (Anita Yuen) and an undercover cop (Jordan Chan), Ko plots an elaborate revenge.

With:
Sister Seven Anita Yuen Ko Chun Leon Lai Lone Ng Jordan Chan Hing Gigi Leung

Pic follows the usual dramatic arc of triumph-defeat-triumph but largely avoids the comedy that propelled many of the entries in the turn-of-the-’90s gambling cycle. Though no great actor, Lai has considerable screen presence, looks authoritative in a tux and balances well with Yuen (playing her usual feisty ditz) and the expressionless, super-cool Chan. The multiple plot twists are clever, and the card-play sequences don’t rely purely on unbelievable techniques for dramatic tension. A collection of amusing outtakes under the end roller caps things off in lighter style.

God of Gamblers 3: The Early Stage

Hong Kong

Production: A Golden Harvest release of a Bob & Partners Co. production for Golden Harvest and Win's Entertainment. Produced by Raymond Chow. Executive producer, Wong Jing. Directed, written by Wong Jing. Executive direction, Bosco Lam.

Crew: Camera (color), Arthur Wong; editor, Marco; music direction, Clarence Hui; art direction, Ringo Fung; action coordinator, Dion Lam. Reviewed at Eng Wah Empress Theatre 1, Singapore, Jan. 9, 1997. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: Sister Seven Anita Yuen Ko Chun Leon Lai Lone Ng Jordan Chan Hing Gigi LeungWith: Francis Ng, Tsui Kam-kong, Cheung Tat-ming, Chung King-fai.

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