My Wife Is a Gambling Maestro (2008)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-03-01
Summary: A bad bet
“My Wife is a Gambling Maestro” shows the continuing evolution of Wong Jing. Unfortunately he is not changing as a creative director or screenwriter, at least by the evidence here, but is continuing his progress in becoming his father. While he can’t rival Wong Tin-Lam in monumental bulk he is coming close in immobility and lack of expression which may actually be a sign of good acting. What comes naturally to the gargantuan Wong pere, if only due to the force of gravity, may be technique with his prolific and comparatively svelte son. Whatever the case, when Wong Jing is on camera he barely moves and is unconvincing as the latest challenger for the title of King of Gamblers of Asia.

This is appropriate for this movie since he wasn’t knocking himself out behind the camera. “My Wife is a Gambling Maestro” is a by the numbers effort if the numbers stop at two. The script, the only literary output by the team of Two Fat Men, might have served as a decent first draft, except that this particular movie has already been done quite often, several times by Wong Jing. The screenwriters’ idea of humor was to name one of the characters Jay Chou and another Eason Chan and to repeat that joke every five minutes or so.

There are two threads of the plot that come together: Jay Chou and his two friends are ineffective debt collectors with demanding girlfriends—in Jay’s case, the girlfriend is insane while Ying Ying is the hot shot and beautiful sister of top gambler Lung who is about to challenge the crafty Manu in a match that decides the control of all the casinos in Asia. They come together when the three guys find Ying Ying on a beach, dazed and suffering from amnesia. Jay falls in love (his friends just want to have sex with her before she wakes up) and takes her to his apartment to recover.

Which gives everyone involved a chance to show just how bad this movie is. The gag is that Jay has never slept with his former (by about twelve hours) girlfriend or, apparently, anyone else. Ying Ying is shaky from her ordeal and suffers from flashbacks which terrify her so she asks Jay to share her (actually his) bed. In her gratitude she makes herself available to the extremely eager Jay. The first three times he tries to kiss her she panics, pushes him away and punches him in the nose. Once could have been funny although it wasn’t here, twice was ridiculous and the third time just tiresome. It wasn’t any better on the fourth attempt when, once again beset by a flashback, she kicks him in the crotch. This is very lazy filmmaking—not inept, not amateurish just not bothering to try.

A few good performances by supporting actors get lost in the general malaise. One is by Danny Chan as Manu who seems to be looking for the rest of his role. He has energy to burn and little chance to use it here. He is obsessed by Manchester United, the English football team—another example of trying to use a bit that could be good for a quick laugh and hanging a huge part of the movie on it. The character is named Manu, the most common nickname for the team is Man U and we should be amused and amazed with this postmodern daring and willingness to let the audience in on the joke. Chan makes the best of it, helped by his costume, a white suit with red piping, a ridiculous looking ensemble that he wears as if it was made for him in Saville Row.

There are a few other bits of good technique by the actors. Winnie Leung, as Mimi, has an extended scene in which she has to make a quick trip from slightly demented to outright insane although always remaining in control. She and Kiki are telling Ying Ying how they handle men. Mimi winds herself up, becoming more angry and emphatic almost with each word she spits out and keeping the momentum going for at least three different camera set-ups. A very small bit of acting business happens when things are almost resolved and Jay is about to kiss Ying Ying for the first time since his attempt ended with a kick to the groin. She was cured, he was happy, they were going to be married but as he leaned in for a kiss he also raised a knee to protect himself on the chance that she had one more snap kick left. It might have been in the script, it might have been improvised on the set, it may even have been an ad lib by Nick Cheung.

Neither of these instances is memorable. They stand out as instances of professionalism in the generally half-hearted efforts around them. It would be nice to find something for which to recommend this movie since it has a talented and hard working cast but they are given so little to work with that it is not recommended.
Reviewer Score: 3