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Winner Takes All

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 03/11/2014
Summary: "S.O.B. Disco" and "Smoke causes cancer so take L.S.D." -- authentic graffiti found in film

Some directors like Johnnie To seem to form a auteuristic style later in their career while some directors like Wong Jing seem to be fully formed when they first start directing. Winner Takes All, his second film as both a director and script writer, can easily be seen as a Wong Jing creation. The mahjong gambling scenes here and in his first film Challenge of the Gamesters (1981) are certainly precursors to God of Gamblers. He is an auteur in a way that Adam Sandler is or Michael Bay is. You may not like them, but there is certainly an authorial content to what they do even when they are creating populist entertainment that is not popular among critics. Wong paints his pictures in crowd-pleasing pastiche. He has been very successful.

In the prologue we witness a jewelry heist by Yiho clan ninjas. The head ninja leaves a red rose and a white glove as a calling card trying to pin the crime on the retired Thief of Thieves the dashing Shi Ka Lok (Patrick Tse Yin) and his family whose lineage dates back to the Water Margin. The white glove being a reference to the Pink Panther series and the rose being an homage to the Hong Kong film The Black Rose (1965: Chor Yuen) which, to add another cinematic connection, Patrick Tse Yin stars in. Shi is now a security consultant and is leading a straight life.

The Michael Hui influence is quite noticeable and there is probably a whole lot more homages than what I note below. The whole structure of the private investigators is directly out of The Private Eyes. You have a penny pinching owner (director Wong Jing) of Yeungs Private Detective agency with two assistants Kwan Yuan Cheung (Wong Yu) and Li Cha Bo (Robert Mak Tak-law) who do not like their egotistical boss and want to strike out on their own. What better way than to capture the culprit of the recent crimes.

Enter Mr. Miyamoto (Chen Kuan-tai) who has the Baseball Mark II-- the latest in impregnable vault systems. He also has hired the three ninjas for his International Security Group to do his evil bidding. His niece (Lau Yuk-pok) is suspicious of the way he obtained the company and enlists the help of Kwan to pose as her boyfriend and infiltrate to find out the truth. But what is Miyamoto up to, why is he always wearing gloves, why does he want to frame the Shi family and just who is the famous Flying Mouse (which they answer way too soon)? The two private detectives get themselves mixed up in all of this but without giving the gag away I bet you too would sympathize with the bad guys for wanting to kill Wong's character. If you have seen this, you know what I am alluding to.

Since Wong Yu is the star he is supposed to appear to be a better fighter than partner Robert "Dance King or Disco Bumpkins" Mak though with Mak's flexibility and ability to do forms (shapes) even in jest he looks better than Wong. Luckily Mak does get to do a dance scene in the film. However, the dual yo-yo fight scene with Wong is quite fun, if too short, and will want to be seen by martial art fans especially those who like esoteric weapons. Wong is doubled in the more difficult yo-yo scenes, but does do some of the tricks and the editing helps the illusion. The end fight scene overuses slow motion, is played serious, but at least you finally get to see Chen Kuan-tai fight with a special weapon.

When you are watching this you may ask yourself questions such as why do the vaults look exactly alike, why are the vaults so huge, how much material can Wong actually lift from Michael Hui or are oversized sunglasses actually funny? But given this is a Wong Jing film it is best not to think too much about cohesion, comprehension, toilet jokes or making sense. I tend to like his films more for scene specific gags, homages and characters than for the whole and this film have plenty of those moments. I am not going to forget Lo Lieh's insanely large wine glass, the secret hidden nipple buttons, the yo-yo fight or the mahjong of death playing robot (the 1950's era robot was a little stupid, but I am not going to forget it.) It has one of the better Cyrano de Bergerac gags. There are references to older films, classic literature (Wong Jing's degree was in classic Chinese literature), Bruce Lee and much more. It is a fun film with many hit-and-miss gags but they are done in an entertaining way. Now only if there was a better way to connect the scenes.

This was seen in the R3 IVL with mono Cantonese or Mandarin language track and English, Traditional Chinese subtitles. The English subtitles are good though some of the English dialog is off (yet again.) There is a new trailer for this film along with others for Hong Kong 73, A Friend From Inner Space, On The Wrong Track, Challenge Of The Gamesters. In the Movie Information section there is: Photo Gallery, Original Poster, Production Notes and Biography and Selected Filmography.

Trivia Notes:
While the subtitles do not write it correctly (Kwan Yuan Cheung and Tso Tso), the Cantonese dubbing does a Kwan Tak-hing and Sek Kin reference when the two are captured in the thieves house. I think the best use of this running cinematic gag, reminding me somewhat of the running gags between Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, has been in Aces Go Places IV (1986).
Wong Jing was influenced early on by Norman Jewison's The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and Jewison in general.
This film also uses stock footage. It took me awhile to remember and double check it was from The 14 Amazons (1972).

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: sharkeysbar
Date: 06/09/2008
Summary: An Absolute Winner

This is one classic comedy, it is a totally crazy, bizarre yet very amusing film. Made in 1982 it is full of 1970s "special" effects and contraptions, including nipple door handles, plastic buckets that cut heads off, jet propulsion back packs and big boxes that kill people by flying fast, to name but a few!
The good guys are a couple of totally incompetent private eyes, out to save a damsel in distress and catch the bad guys at the same time.
While the film is hard to describe due to the craziness of it all, just see it! It is bizarre and maybe you'll be laughing often not where Wong Jing intended with his direction but it is enjoyable nevertheless. There is a game of "death mahjong" played by the heroes and a fool with a robot that is slapstick par-excellence!
Basically this is just a crazy film that is very amusing all the way through the little over 90 minutes it plays. I really had a greta time, quite a few laughs and even more raised eyebrows as I tried to work out what it was all about.
For a film that doesn't take itself seriously, it is a winner for all!

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 01/04/2005
Summary: WAtchable!!

The movie itself is a mix of comedy, action and and a little bit of skill. A different movie from what is usually produced which is why i liked it

Patrick Tse is the thief of thieves whose family is long retired from the robin hood lifestyle for 10 years. Recent robberies have occured who use the families calling card and the police forcefully want this mystery solved. They suspect smeone from there past but feel this cant not be him, then who is it?

I liked this movie more than i should. I think the blend of action and comedy are great. The special effects though wil probably make you laugh, and how fit is PAtrick Tse in reality i wonder?

I think the main problem is not enough screen time, because WAng YU and Patrick Tse are the leads and i feel PAtirck Tse is missing out or should of had more screen time than Wang Yu. I say this because PAtrick Tse character is far more interesting than WAng Yu's

There are gaps in the movie, like where do captured people go, they disappear after that. THe spinning cubes are just plain stupid looking, and the fight scene with Michael Chan wasn't so great. And how can someone not care too much that there brother dies!!

OVerall its a watchable movie which will excite and make u laugh, but with the special effects may make u laugh in the wrong way