Casino Raiders II (1991)
Reviewed by: STSH on 2005-11-23
Summary: Such a downer
This is THE movie which nearly ended my fascination with HK film.

It was the first HK gambling film I ever saw. I watched it in Thailand, dubbed into Thai with no subtitles, and therefore was unable to follow the finer points of the story. But much of the message got through anyway.

For a start, and despite much browbeating by the director, none of these characters induce much sympathy (with perhaps the exception of the cute little daughter). There's not one moment of humour or lightness anywhere in the proceedings. It's all done in total seriousness and is very depressing. That sort of treatment is fine for Hamlet, but not for this stuff.

And there is shocking cruelty. One character cuts off a hand in one quick chop in order to show sincerity and engender respect. Another is bashed on the head while treading water and sinks to the bottom of the sea - and this slow motion death scene is accompanied by a lovely song which makes the scene all the harder to watch.

I have no objection to violence and cruelty as such, even in gambling pictures, where it is all too common. But it needs to be either lightened occasionally (though not with the really stupid humour which is also all too common) or performed in a context of quality. And CRII manages neither.

One the plus side, the cinematography is a treat, the music is pretty damn good, and any film featuring Ng Sin Lin is at least partly watchable, unsympathetic though she is here.

And the DVD has some scintillating subs, such as "... since we stared with the same teacher".

Having seen hundreds of films in the meantime, including nearly every gambling film ever made in HK that I could find, I liked this film a whole lot better the on the second viewing.

Which leaves me rather confused. I loathe this movie for what it nearly did to my HK film fandom, but appreciated it somewhat the second time. The rating I've given is thus a compromise between these two positions.

Previously published review:
Loathsome and detestable. I saw this film without ANY subtitles and dubbed into a foreign language in which I'm far from fluent, so I may have missed the odd subtlety or plot detail. Notwithstanding, this is a ludicrously over-gory film about criminals, full of characters impossible to warm to or admire or even respect. It contains the stock elements of crime/gambling films, but this is the one (and so far the only) film in a sub-genre I adore which I truly hate. It's grim grim grim, none of the actors appear to be having any fun at all. What I hate most is one particular scene. Love interest Ng Sin Lin (first time I ever saw this lovely actress) is thrown into the harbour and terrorized by thugs. They want information from her, which she steadfastly refuses to provide. They beat and throw things at her, and finally smash her head with a rifle butt, after which she sinks to the bottom, gorily dead. The song which accompanies this is a deservedly popular HK beautiful romantic love song, and would have become one of my favourite cantopops, if not for the unpleasant association with this scene.
Reviewer Score: 6