Archive for the 'Romantic Gambler' Category


God of Gamblers (賭神 or Dǔshén; lit)

God of Gamblers [1989]

This classic from Hong Kong stars Chow Yun-Fat as ‘Ko Chun’ AKA ‘Chocolate’,  one of the best professional gamblers in the world.

Ko Chun agrees to clean out a Singaporean gambler when its learned he killed a friends family member. The match is set up, but Ko Chun accidentally falls down a hill and hits his head the night of the game.

He suffers from amnesia and is picked up by some local pranksters and pickpockets. He regresses to a child like state and they name him Chocolate. His life is still on the line since he is a target for gangsters. He must gain back his ability and learn his past so that he can beat the Singaporean and put an end to all the mess.

Either this is a huge classic, or its just hard to find. The average price is like $25-$30 on amazon for a used copy. I always wanted this as I am a fan of romantic gambler movies and card manipulation. I found it at a local import store that was clearing out their movies for $6. I was very excited and picked it up right away.

Dang… I sure was disappointed. Chow Yun-Fat is awesome and a favorite of mine. But I don’t understand the draw to this movie. It has plenty of appeal, but never delivers. There is some action. There is some laughs. There is even a little XCM! But its too far, too few, too little, too late.

I think the thing that killed it the most for me is, in most gambling movies, (Maverick, Cincinnati Kid, Big Hand for the Little Lady, etc) people are blessed with extreme skill, wit, and even lady luck. But in this film, how good you are is completely based on how well you cheat. Everyone cheats, and everyone knows it. This includes our protagonist. So the question is, HOW did they cheat. To me, there is no honor in that. Where are the poker face mind games we all crave?

Unless you work security in a casino, why would you want to watch a movie where you have to tell how they cheat?

I’ll make this quick. 2 stars. Its got a tiny bit of action, comedy, charisma, and even card manipulation. But its lack of more delivery and the fact that cheaters always win that irks me. I traded in in and got $10 cause it was ‘rare’. I hope someone else gets their moneys worth.


The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid [1965]

This classic card shark film is highly regarded as the best poker movie of all time.

Steve McQueen is ‘Eric “The Kid” Stoner’.  Edward G. Robinson is ‘Lancey “The Man” Howard’. The Kid is about to play the biggest game of his life against The Man. Once he wins, he will become The Man.

But its going to be much more complex than that. Soon, trusted friend and dealer Shooter (Karl Malden) is threatened by Slade (Rip Torn) into cheating in The Kids favor. Also, Shooter’s wife Melba (Ann-Margret) is constantly attempting to seduce The Kid away from his current rocky relationship. In the end, it is up to The Kid to wipe out all distractions, confusion, and obstacles so he can beat The Man on a fair playing field.

Like most movies starring Steve McQueen, this has that same flowing vibe. OK, so he is the ‘King of Cool’. I hear it all the time. And I DO think he is a cool guy and actor. But I refuse to call it a ‘cool’ vibe, because its different. Its difficult to explain. It’s similar to Bullitt or The Getaway. No filler or fat, all straight forward. This movie is more of that. Flows very nicely.

One great thing is that you don’t need to know poker to enjoy the movie. Everything is played out in such a way, that you can understand whats going on, even if you don’t get the jargon. The story is very gripping, and the acting is extremely natural. It all boils down to the all famous ending that you just cant beat.

Also, Ann-Margret is very easy-on-the-eyes in this film. From what people tell me, she usually is. Although I was shocked to find out she was the not-so-easy-on-the-eyes mom in the rock opera ‘Tommy’. And If you love rare Jazz funerals (like the one in Live and Let Die), make sure to catch the opening!

The downers are there. The movie can appear very ho-hum. At times, it seems overly built up, but the tension is at an all time low. With little regard for audience, the last poker game is casually going by and WHAM you’re suddenly at the last match. Was not a smooth lead in…

3 stars for The Kid! Its very well done and solid. But nothing will really blow your mind, and compared to other Steve McQueen movies, its not as much fun.

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May 2018
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