Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old School HK Film: God of Gamblers.

Old school HK movies played a major part in my childhood.

To talk about old school HK movies, I need to start from God of Gamblers. For the Chinese it was pretty much the biggest cinematic influence during the 80s. 

It also shows how addicted the Chinese were(are) to gambling, to be able to make a movie based on that. I don't think I'm exaggarating when I say his character was the equivalent to the Chinese Superman. The character, Ko, didn't really show any pragmatic gambling skills in the movie. To be the best gambler in the world, you have to be also good at guns, martial arts, looking stylish, and perform magic. In actual fact, the title should be 'God of Scammers'.

Looking back the movie was shot under terrible budget, lighting ... terrible everything. What saved it (or the whole industry back then) was merely Chow Yun Fat's star power.
Although seeing Andy Lau as the young idiotic sidekick is always refreshing.

Everything aside, the opening was still powerful to me because it was so unorthodox. I'm not sure if it was intentional, old movies tend to open with the title and credits, but with GoG there's a prologue: an obscure casino in San Francisco realized Ko was winning a lot money. The manager went down and put a cap on his chips and we see Ko leaving the casino, setting an introduction to be the 'God of Gamblers'. 

Then cut to Tokyo, Ko's wife was blogging with her voice recorder about their life while he sips tea. (The recorder was a major prop for later story development and even modern HK movies aren't that well thought out.) The assistant came in and simply said 'we're ready.'

Intense zoom into Ko's face. Cue dramatic music, and suddenly we see this camcorder quality video of Ko and his wife getting through a rampage of Japanese reporters to establish that this guy is not any big shot, but THE big shot. The fact that the director didn't give a shit and ran the credits on top of the scene just gave more impact to the scene. 

(The assistant preventing the reporters to take photos was also a nice touch. It resonates with the prologue which the casino manager said 'he hates taking pictures'. I know, details.)

So the first scene establishes the mystery, second scene validates his identity, then straight into battling a Yakuza boss. 

I may be thinking about it too much. But take a look. Even if you disagree, take it as an absurd journey into HK classic film cinema. It's still better than modern HK cinema.