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Gambling Ghost

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 04/30/2008
Summary: three generations of sammo...

brock (sammo hung) is a loser. he works as a parking attendant at a hotel, squandering any money he makes with his friend siu-hon (mang hoi), he lives with his dad (sammo hung) and is frequently being compared to his dead grandfather (sammo hung), who was also a scurrilous gambler. after brock and siu-hon try to edge in on lily's (nina li) scamming, siu-hon ends up being kidnapped by triads.

luckily, brock accidentally brings his grandfather's spirit back to life and gets his help to win the ransom and rescue siu-hon. although, things aren't that simple; grandfather wants brock to kill the grandson of the man who betrayed and killed him many years ago...

well, this has been a sammo hung comedy that was unavailable for years. however, an allegedly remastered disc appeared, looking decidedly like a transfer from an old vhs tape, a couple of years ago.

the film itself is a typically erratic slice of hong kong comedy from the early nineties, with a narrative arc that plays out like a stream of consciousness. sammo does some good work in his three roles; as the young, impetuous waster, the middle-aged, straight-laced father and the ghost of his, gentleman conman, grandfather; there's plenty of amusing moments and sammo shows his range, once again. alongside sammo, mang hoi puts in solid support and a wealth of cameos (including richard ng, corey yuen, wu ma, billy chow, lam ching-ying and stanley fung) flesh things out nicely.

in terms of action, this is by no means a classic. there's a handful of fight sequences which, to be fair, get progressively better throughout the film, culminating with various sammos and mang hoi fighting billy chow, james tin and robert samuels. none of these sequences are filled with technical brilliance or spectacle, but they all have some good moments and, importantly in a comedy, are fun to watch.

a fun, entertaining, film, but not a classic...

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 02/04/2007
Summary: Nothng to write home about

Not much on the plot front on this one – and not much of anything else for that matter. Sammo Hung plays three generations of swindler, and is eventually, after much larking about, tasked with seeking revenge for his grandfather’s death.

GAMBLING GHOST is a bit of a forgotten film in Sammo’s canon. I was only vaguely aware of its release back in the day, and it quickly fell off the radar after that. Thankfully, Soulblade have seen fit to release this on DVD for it to be judged against his other work.

Frankly, it just doesn’t cut it. It’s mildly interesting to note that there’s not much actual gambling in this film (apart from a dream sequence, an aborted game of Mah-Jong and a crooked game of dice) and not that much ghost activity. It’s not even that much fun seeing Sammo playing three generations of the same family. In fact, sometimes the whole film sees to be centred around fitting humorous cameos in (Lam Ching-Ying, Ng Ma and Richard Ng). Oh, and of course, some jokes about Nina Li-Chi’s boobies. The humour never rises above mildly funny, but only reaches this dizzy height on a couple of rare occasions.

Looking down the cast list at the potential talent only makes things worse. Although credited highly, Billy Chow only appears right at the very end, as does 80’s arch-villain James Tien. The former shows his stuff in a brief fight that is quite entertaining, while the latter might just as well have stayed home.

The Soulblade DVD claims to be remastered, but once again it’s about as remastered as my arse. I really don’t know how they keep getting away with this – the transfer’s pretty horrendous. Worse still, the subtitles are worse than anything I’ve seen in a long time, although they do throw the occasional unintentional howler at you (“Kill that shit guy” was my favourite).

All in all, a very disappointing film, and I can now understand why it’s been unavailable for so long.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Frank Lakatos
Date: 10/11/2006
Summary: One of Sammo Hung's last great comedies

This is one of Sammo Hung's last well made comedies and he's in top form. The cast is all star, the action is plentiful and up to Sammo's standards, the comedic scenes are hilarious, and the English dubb added to the disc adds to the enjoyment. Essential Sammo entertainment. Billy Chow looks very ematiated, but delivers great action. The Lotto scene with Wu Man is hilarious. 4/5

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 07/18/2006

The Gambling Ghost is one of the lesser-known entries in Sammo Hung's canon, staying for only a couple of weeks in Hong Kong cinemas, and not appearing until now (mid-2006) on DVD. It's kind of a shame, because while it's nothing extraordinary, The Gambling Ghost moves at a fast clip, has some good action sequences, and never takes itself too seriously -- in other words, it's one of those movies that reminds viewers why they love the "golden age" of Hong Kong movies so much.

The film could be considered a melding of some of the most popular genres in Hong Kong. The first part concentrates on comedy, as Sammo and his buddy Mang Hoi try to pull off scams, with little success. This is probably the weakest part of the movie, though truthfully, most of the comedy is not slanted towards Westerners (many of the jokes poke fun at Mainlanders, making them out to be greedy and lecherous). Next, the film-makers introduce elements from the popular ghost movies from the region. After Sammo tries to steal and sell a dai lo's car, Mang Hoi is kidnapped and held for ransom. This brings in the ghost of Sammo's grandfather (also played by Sammo), the epynomous title character. Gramps agrees to help out young Sammo, if he in return helps get revenge for his death. This section picks up the film's pace, and there are several very funny scenes, including one with Lam Ching-Ying as an over-zealous Taoist priest bent on sending Grandpa Sammo back to the underworld.

As with many films from this time, The Gambling Ghost's last half-hour is dominated by action, and it's solid stuff. This was one of Sammo's last action-heavy starring roles (though he has started to return to the fray in his more recent work like SPL), and he seemed to want to end the movie with a bang. He fights people (including long-time HK movie villain Billy Chow and gweilo Bobby Samuels) while portraying three different characters (he also plays the dad in the family) in a scene that lasts about fifteen minutes. There's nothing terribly fancy about the fight, but it was great seeing just pure brawling versus the over-edited wire/computer-fu that passes for "martial arts" film-making nowadays from both sides of the pond.

Even though this production from Sammo is relatively minor and low-budget, it still stands head and shoulders above most of the "big event" productions Hong Kong film-makers are trying to force upon audiences nowadays. It reminded this reviewer of the days when one could practically grab just about any HK video at your local store and be guaranteed a good time. Sure, there's nothing truly great about The Gambling Ghost, but it's fun -- something which a lot of recent Hong Kong action movies have failed to be.

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Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 07/13/2006
Summary: A Good Time For Some

The three reviews below are completely accurate in their representation of this movie; it's got a lot going for it. And yet, for me, it just didn't satisfy. But why?

At first I assumed it's because I'm watching a 1991 movie for the first time in 2006; and that probably does explain some of it. But I think what it really is, is Sammo. I've wanted to like Sammo for years, but he just doesn't connect with me. Maybe I shouldn't have read Jackie Chan's autobiography.

So since it's really well done, and has all the merits pointed out in the other reviews, and I still didn't like it that much, I think I'm just going to have to swear off Sammo's movies. In other words, if you don't like this movie, it must be because you just don't like Sammo, because the movie contains a lot of the right stuff.

So strap yourself to the Sammometer and if you get a positive reading, check out GG.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/11/2002

I really don't understand why Sammo Hung fell out of favour with HK audiences in the early nineties... Take this 1991 film, for example: while it does have a bit of an old-fashioned feel, it's all around a polished, well-made and highly entertaining movie that tells its story at a brisk pace and successfully mixes comedy and action the way only HK can.

Sammo plays a hotel valet, who along with his sidekick (Man Hoi) gets tangled up in a car-smuggling operation when following a beautiful woman (Nina Li). Soon he has the triads after him, while at home gets into even more trouble when the ghost of his grandfather (also Sammo Hung, who plays three roles in this movie) reappears and tries to request his help in avenging his death.

The film successfully skewers gambling movies as well as ghost movies (with fun parodies of both GoG and ACGS), and offers some hilarious comedic setpieces. Cameos by the likes of Lam Ching Ying add to the fun, and the action sequences are good as always (nothing overly memorable, but still very satisfying). Along the way, Sammo includes pretty vicious barbs against mainlanders and the pending handover, as well as some shots at Dickson Poon (who was, after all, the head of the studio making the movie...).

In summary, 90 minutes of solid entertainment. Recommended.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 12/14/2001

The other review here says enough, and I pretty much agree. The story is not much, and thinking there were 3 Sammos might put you off, but this is hilarious at times! Man Hoi is very funny, much funnier than Sammo at times. Nina Li plays one of her longest characters here, for once! Lots of cameos too, including Stanley Fung, Richard Ng, Wu Ma and plenty more.

Although it could be classified as a ghost movie, don't let that put you off if you don't like that genre, it really is more of a comedy and very very funny.

Rating (out of 5): 4

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 09/10/2000
Summary: Samo times three .....

Samo has a go at being Jerry Lewis here, playing three roles - a young loser, his upright father, and his tricky dead grandfather.

Plot outline sounds silly, perhaps even unoriginal ? Well, yes. Samo used a very similar story before in Where's Officer Tuba. But whereas Tuba was pretty muddled and dull, Gambling Ghost is a treat. The balance between comedy, action and drama is just right, and the film is entertaining almost all the way. There's a bunch of entertaining walk-on parts. Wu Ma appears as himself, playing Swordsman Yin from Chinese Ghost Story, and he's hilarious. Lam Ching Ying does his usual turn as the taoist priest. The climactic fight scene is well up to standard, especially helped by a thinner than usual Billy Chow and mean black American Robert Samuels. I would rate this as Samo's best starring film (as opposed to those with Jackie Chan and/or Yuen Biao).

Highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9