Ѥ (1991)
King of Chess

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 01/28/2007
Summary: Stalemate

Tony Leung turns in a fine and sensitive performance, similar to the one he did for Prison On Fire. However, the film is fairly dull and downbeat. The final sequence tries to be mystical, but ends up being simply puzzling.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: ButterflyMurders
Date: 06/05/2002
Summary: A different, not-so-glowing opinion...

One of the most amazing things about this film is that John Sham SPEAKS IN HIS NORMAL VOICE! No horrible accent, just nice, normal cantonese. Wow. When I first heard him speak I had to rewind beceause I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Now, onto the film itself. I found this film...a little incomprehensible. Maybe I'm just not analytical enough as a movie-goer and missed the symbolism, but I didn't understand at all the link between the genius boy chess player of the modern day, and the genius chess player of the cultural revolution. The past sequences are quite well-done and dominate about three-quarters of the movie but then it all begins to fall apart. Tony Leung plays the heroic chess player to the hilt, it falls into sentimental mush, then the weird and rather unsatisfying ending.

Overall, probably a little TOO wannabe artistic for me. 5/10

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 02/13/2002
Summary: Very good...considering.

I'm glad to say that this isn't another God Of Gamblers rip off, it's a good film that I first saw near to the time when it first came on VCD, and seeing it again all these years later reminded me of how good this was and how much I can still enjoy it.

The King of Chess is set during and after the Cultural Revolution, making a descent attempt at making a serious movie about the serious time in China. The English title though refers to a character played by Tony Leung, who as a young boy is taught chess and is pretty good at it. Another character is a TV producer (played by the comedian John Shum) who was a boy during the Revolution. This is where part of the story gets a bit strange…a story set in present day, with flashbacks to the Cultural Revolution about a chess player who can see into the future who is being sort by several people to tell them their fortune. However, most of it is serious, and actually a very good film. As stated in another review, the first thing you see and hear is a rock song about Communism being played over scenes of protests. This gives the viewer a sense of ‘what the hell is going on here’ as the titles start, but by the end of the movie, it all fits together nicely.

Tsui Hak is credited as producing it, but there is nothing special in the overall production that I would credit him for. Yim Ho, the director (and also a main character) is the one who deserves all the credit in my mind. The production budget was pretty low I think, because everything about it is poor quality. This is also as far as I know the last time John Shum ever did a movie, not that many would care, but I always thought he was pretty funny.

Overall, it’s pretty good, though a few stupid scenes sure enough, but enjoyable all the same. Though Tony Leungs ending is over the top (the scene in China).The rating might be a little high considering the poor production, but it's worth it.

Recommended...though not easy to get on VCD anymore I think.

Rating: [4/5]

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/03/2002
Summary: Half a good movie, half a not-so good movie

Not another God Of Gamblers spinoff, unforunately! A strange movie, directed by Yim Ho and produced by Tsui Hark. Tony Leung Ka-Fai stars and shares scriptwriting credits with Yim Ho.

The movie flits back and forth from Taiwan in 'the present day' to China during/after the cultural revolution. The story is split between that of a young kid, whom the producers of a TV show discover to have psychic powers, and Leung Ka Fai - the "King Of Chess" in China during the cultural revolution. It seems to be doing so in order to draw parallels between the times and places - to show that people's motivations and actions were still basically the same whether they were living under scary Communism or scary Capitalism. This is mainly demonstrated by the people around the little genius and the older genius, and their exploitation of them to serve their own interests.

Quite why a King Of Chess and a little psychic kid were chosen as the hook to hang these observations off I don't know. It doesn't seem particularly appropriate... the 2 characters and their stories don't appear to be symbolic of the times & places they are found in, and don't fit together with each other too well either. I think mainly it's the fault of the modern day tale, which seems kind of tacky compared to the nicely done sequences set in the past.

The movie opens with a rock song that sounds like a Communist Party propaganda track, and the montage of visuals matches this impression. Lots of footage of Chairman Mao and huge crowds of people looking terribly excited about the cultural revolution. It closes in a similar way. This kind of gives the impression that it is trying to say "look, the Cultural Revolution was really cool", but the footage inbetween doesn't tally with this. The movie isn't really saying either time or social system was/is better than the other, or suggest ways to improve the world - it just points out the problems with people in general.

Overall it is a visually nice movie, with a bunch of interesting scenes and some much less interesting scenes. The end result seems a little unfocussed, like they weren't quite sure what their point was. Or maybe it's just that *I* wasn't

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/03/2000
Summary: Pretty good

As far as i remember, this film is about.....CHESS!! Though it might sound boring, the movie is quite entertaining!!

The movie is like a movie from China, SO SAD it might depressed you!! I can not remember the finer details about this movie or what happens in it (WARNING: going off my poor memory), but i remember the ending is GREAT!!

A entertaining light drama


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

The story begins in modern day Taipei and flashbacks into 1967during China's Cultural Revolution. The main character played by John Sham helps to save an ailing TV show "Whiz Kids World" by molding a child prodigy into a chess king.

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]