Saturday, 27 November 2010



I really should have kept up with the Heroic Bloodshed subgenre of Hong Kong action cinema. During that subgenre's heyday in the late 80s and early 90s I caught many excellent examples at the much-missed Scala in Kings Cross - movies which alternated the corniest scenes of melodrama with mass shootouts in which the heroes could be shot thirty or forty times and still walk away. Themes of loyalty, brotherhood, betrayal and honour were always touched upon but the greatest of pleasures came from the huge body counts of bespoke-tailored gangsters and more gunfire and explosions than the Battle Of Stalingrad. Think John Woo, think Ringo Lam. And think Chow Yun Fat, The Coolest Man In The World, who strode, indeed sauntered through several of these films pumping thousands of bullets into miscreants without a second, or indeed a first thought: reaching a peak with the almost orgasmic levels of senseless, wonderful, eye-watering carnage in such films as The Killer and A Better Tomorrow II.

Frequently we'd little idea what to expect back in the days of triple-billed programmes by Eastern Heroes and the Jackie Chan Fan Club. One day they screened God Of Gamblers, in which Chow Yun Fat played the greatest gambler in the world - a man who could score four in a game of five dice by shaking the container in such a way that one of the dice was destroyed. And eventually there was a massive shootout and all the villains got killed. They followed it with God Of Gamblers II, which I don't recall as being half as good.

Confusingly, it wasn't the only sequel and more confusingly, it wasn't the only sequel called God Of Gamblers II. The Return Of The God Of Gamblers is actually God Of Gamblers 2, even though it has the same director and the same lead star in the same role. But 2 doesn't equal II. Ko Chun, the God Of Gamblers (Chow Yun Fat) has now retired to France with his pregnant wife, awaiting the birth of their baby son. Evil gangsters turn up because their boss wants to prove himself the best gambler and dethrone the God, and Ko's wife is brutally murdered. But on her deathbed Ko promises not to gamble for a whole year and, despite becoming involved with gangland conflicts, refuses to break his word. Until the year is up....

The action/gunplay sequences are certainly noisy and violent enough, although they lack the class of John Woo's more demented shootouts. The comedy mugging is pretty lame and at a scratch over two hours it's far too long and could do with a substantial trim, ideally from the scenes with the monumentally annoying kid Chow gets lumbered with. But there's some fun to be had, and when the immaculate Chow Yun Fat, The Coolest Man In The World, thoroughly trounces the villains, it's impossible not to cheer. Nonsense, but I enjoyed it.


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