‘God of Gamblers 2’ Dazzles With Its Winning Combinations of Action, Comedy and Gambling
Wong Jing’s sequel to All for the Winner and spin-off to God of Gamblers finds Chow Sing Cho looking up to Michael “Dagger” Chan in order to become the God of Gambler’s next disciple, but the two must put aside their differences when they discover that a gang boss is bent on ruining the God of Gamblers’ name.
Director: Wong Jing
Cast: Andy Lau, Stephen Chow, Ng Man-tat, Sinn Lap-man, Monica Chan
Country: Hong Kong
Runtime: 99 minutes
There is a clip from one of Ronny Chieng’s stand-ups that went viral on Facebook recently about how the Chinese love money. It’s true! We love money so much we have superheroes for gambling. Starring a who’s who of Hong Kong cinema, God of Gamblers 2 賭俠 is one of the many hearty laugh-riots surrounding the Chinese’s favourite pastime in the 1980s and 1990s.
The film may be titled as a sequel but things aren’t that straight-forward. God of Gamblers 2 is a crossover featuring characters from the smash-hit God of Gamblers and one of its many unofficial spinoffs All For The Winner.
Here, a young Andy Lau reprises his God of Gamblers character as Little Knife, the self-stylised Knight of Gamblers and disciple of the titular God of Gamblers, trying to make a mark in the world with his master out on hiatus. He eventually teams up with Sing, the bumbling lead with supernatural powers from All For The Winner played again by Stephen Chow, to take down a menacing fraud, Hussein (Sinn Lap-man), looking to impersonate Knife for his own gains.
Watching the previous flicks isn’t necessary to catch up with God of Gamblers 2 as its plot is largely independent sans a few choice references. Frankly, the narrative is more of a backdrop than a focus; more of an excuse to get Lau and Show involved in shenanigans and shoot-outs. Anybody could drop in halfway through or even at its third act and still enjoy the comedy and action sequences.
The film moves at a gag-a-minute with the winning chemistry of Chow and Ng Man-tat, playing Sing’s equally incompetent and lecherous uncle Blackie Tat. God of Gamblers 2 is one of the first films to mark the start of a career-spanning collaboration between the duo. Together, they essentially define Hong Kong’s unique brand of “Mo Lei Tau” slapstick humour.
As with the genre, there are puns and references that are unfortunately lost in translation to non-Cantonese speakers. However, the film more than makes it for it in spades with the duo’s trademark brand of physical comedy, over-the-top facial expressions and plethora of self-deprecating jokes. Not every joke and gag is a hit though with its dated references and the occasional overindulgence in wacky that can get overwhelming with its fast-talking pace.
Little Knife tags along as the straight-faced foil to the duo’s hijinks. While Lau does nail the comedic beats given to him, he is mostly tasked with carrying the plot forward. Lau’s natural charisma makes for a compelling lead both in his dialogue and when he is talking with his hands. Being the Knight of Gamblers, he is targeted by the slimy antagonist Hussein who sends an endless army of hitmen to kill him and take his title.
These action sequences are delightful spectacles filled with excellent stunt work, with characters cartwheeling between bullets and kicks sending gun-wielding lackeys flying through windows. Even as he single-handedly dispatches scores of henchmen, Lau’s expressive intensity turns Little Knife into a rather relatable lead, seemingly getting by only because of the character’s quick thinking.
Oh and yes, there is definitely gambling here – lots of it. This is where our leads are in their element. Using their (gambling) superpowers, they are able to see through cards and even straight up change them. You would think that every situation is a sure-win, but there are enough challenges presented to them to keep things interesting.
These scenes are clear high points of the film. Sharp movements from the characters as they toss and flip every card brings out an intensity akin to a martial arts duel. Lau is simply magnetic as he sits poised confidently around casino tables like he’s worth a million bucks. There are variations with the tone in these scenes as well with Chow’s comedic involvement keeping scenes lighthearted.
Hong Kong directors in the 1990s and 1980s were serving up a handful of films a year and this meant that these movies were usually shot in the most efficient manner – God of Gamblers 2 is no different. Director Wong Jing keeps shots simple with its cast’s star power in mind, allowing every over-the-top emote to be captured with appropriately placed close-ups. The fast-paced cuts and pans during the gambling duels move with a sense of purpose, ensuring that even if the viewer doesn’t know the rules of the game, they can still tell who is winning or losing based on the characters’ facial expressions.
While they don’t necessarily provide star-making performances here, God of Gamblers 2 gives a sample of why Andy Lau and Stephen Chow are household names today with their trademark charms and quirks. In many ways, God of Gamblers 2 also gives a glimpse into Hong Kong’s culture – readily and lovingly sharing their unique brand of humour, their appreciation for well-choreographed action sequences, and their bottomless love for gambling.
Catch all the action and laughs on Netflix now.