All for the Winner (1990)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-07-24
The pairing of Stephen Chow and Ng Man-Tat has been one of the most successful and productive buddy acts in movie history. They have been in twenty-five movies together and while it is impossible (at least for me) to watch their early stuff and forget the impact of “Shaolin Soccer”, “The God of Cookery” or “King of Beggars”, the chemistry between them seems to be there from the start—in “All for the Winner”, for example.

They have complementary styles. Stephen Chow is laid back, relaxed, almost somnolent. While his character may think about the big picture—generally a grandiose picture—he doesn’t concern himself with the details of everyday life. He is cool and unruffled even when he should be worried about what is happening. Ng Man-Tat is the opposite. His character is often not only involved with the minutiae of living, he generally finds things too complicated to deal with. He runs very hot, always ready to fly off the handle. He reacts too quickly to both good news and bad news, runs when he should walk, shouts when he should be silent, attacks when he should retreat. Together they are in the same league as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello or Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, although because they work in Hong Kong the twenty-five or so movies they made together are just a part—in the case of Ng Man-Tat not the largest part—of their filmographies.

There are a few wonderful touches in “All for the Winner”. One is, after seeing a tape of “God of Gamblers” and wondering about Chow Yun Fat’s slow motion saunter into the card room, Stephen Chow decides to walk in the same way, but doing the slo-mo himself. Another is the confrontation that Ng and Chow have with tough guys from a casino who want to steal the money they have just won—although they are outnumbered and weaponless, Ng insists on attacking the thugs who beat him almost senseless. After Chow has subdued them with some Bruce Lee type kung-fu moves, Ng tells him that this was nothing--he deals with this kind of beating every day.

Sharla Cheung as Mau was, as always, gorgeous. She was doubled very well in her fights and action scenes and wasn’t tasked with too much actual acting. Sandra Ng impersonated Mau impersonating the Spirit of Democracy (so she could always keep one arm raised) and did so as well as anyone could have. The scenes with Chow’s Mao and Sandra Ng’s Ping in the restaurant were excruciatingly drawn out. The entire bit of Mao being entranced with a mole on his beloved’s armpit was funny at first but after a few minutes it was (at least for this Western observer) simply something to get through.

“All for the Winner” is hit and miss. The hits are quite funny, the misses are stupefying and overall it doesn’t seem to be an essential part of Stephen Chow’s body of work.
Reviewer Score: 6