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The Gambling Ghost (1991) Directed by: Clifton Ko

Quite a slight Sammo Hung comedy where he plays multiple roles (son, dad and grandfather). As a way of making his gambling god grandfather rest in peace, he's asked to carry out a revenge plan. All while he and pal played by Mang Hoi tries to score dough...

A not so inspiring or funny first 40-45 minutes where scam upon scam becomes the main focus (including the start of the rivalry the duo has with Nina Li) doesn't signal confidence. Shame because the strong, very initial start where Clifton Ko parodies All For The Winner is wonderful as we see Paul Chun's character not with a voice box this time but instead carries an electric shaver. As soon as the plot kicks in very late in the game, the mix of Sammo's grandfather manipulating situations such as the Mark Six lottery and the various cameos and support by Sammo's usual crew (including Lam Ching-Ying in the you know what role, James Wong, Teddy Yip, Wu Ma, Billy Chow, Richard Ng, Chung Faat among others) is a good one. Minor action rears its head although is not a main component but Sammo fight with Bobby Samuels is a definite highlight. Therefore The Gambling Ghost is a definite watch but not a well remembered one all throughout.

Gambling Soul (1992) Directed by: Ching Gong

Ting (Wu Ma) is an obsessive gambler who loses his restaurant, him and his wife's apartment plus receives the added bonus of vanquishing in a heart attack. Cut to struggling musician Hau (Leung Siu-Ho) who moves into the vacant flat that is soon visited by the ghost of Ting. Determined to win back what he lost, except his life, he schools Hau in the art of gambling...

A far cry from Ching Gong's glory days at Shaw Brother's (with credits such as The 14 Amazons under his belt), Gambling Soul is largely formulaic, feeling like multiple movies in one but isn't particularly accurate in its aims. The gambling and mahjong playing doesn't necessarily get in the way for those of us with less of an understanding of it but little to none inspired behavior overall crosses out any chance Gambling Soul thought it had. Mimi Chu, Tin Ching appear as well as Ku Feng and Chen Kuan-Tai briefly.

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Games Gamblers Play (1974) Directed by: Michael Hui

Michael Hui did three films at Shaw Brother's for director Li Han-Hsiang and he instantly proved to be box-office draw in his feature film debut, The Warlord. For his feature film directing debut, this time at Golden Harvest, Michael brought in his brother Sam to co-star and the rest is Hong Kong comedy cinema history. Games Gamblers Play not only was a successful Cantonese language film (Mandarin cinema dominated at this time) but the start of a series of box-office successes for the Hui brothers (Ricky began participating more and more as the years rolled on and he has a cameo in this film). For newcomers and fans of the Hui's, Games Gamblers Play is uneven though. While Michael's terrific reacting is on display, the comedy isn't as frequently hilarious as later films. Just like Cat III has flashback structure for most of its efforts, Michael Hui's films have very little plot. They're more episodic in approach and that is a criticism even if The Private Eyes is a classic despite the thin story. By the time The Private Eyes was made, he had found his flow and the knowledge of how to fill the entire running time with consistent gags though. Games Gamblers Play is a must for the fans but not the one you want to start with. Sam Hui's theme song is wonderful and repeatedly is heard in different versions during the film.

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The Game They Called Sex (1988)

Not an anthology as such but three directors (Gam Kwok-Chiu, Wong Siu-Dai and Sylvia Chang) handled the sparsely plotted journey of Maggie Cheung's Hsiaomin. Being more a story containing emotional character beats, The Game They Called Sex may not be riveting (and some filmschool sensibilities such as overt symbolism disrupts matters) but presents a versatility and a bravery that means it refuses to settle Hsiaomin's matters. Those matters the filmmakers even refuse to hand out easily to us. Starting out perfectly innocent (therefore the Maggie of this era looks the part) as a daughter on her way of being inducted in an arranged marriage, flirts with sexual awakening of the young beauty becomes apparent as she enters a marriage of draught in many ways (husband is self-centered to the max). Danger comes into her duty-filled life when she crosses path with a criminal (David Wu) and sparks fly to a certain point but not to the utmost point. Hsiaomin's fantasies are about love and while going through subjects considered dangerous, there's not necessarily a fear about sex here but a fear of breaking tradition. The prospect of loneliness and the guilt of loneliness being perhaps the biggest threat to your position in the family. Lead Cheung matures in the role quite well, being in tune with the low-key direction where she's asked to wear the character's emotions on the inside. An admirable choice for Hsiaomin. Will that kind of pain be worth going through just to find an acceptable love (i.e. actual warmth) ? The filmmakers preaches that fact and we're convinced, despite being jerked around a little, starting from the rather misleading English title. Emil Chow appears in support.

Gangland Odyssey (1988) Directed by: Choi Yeung-Ming

Partly a rise and fall story of Chen (Alex Man) who goes from committing murder as a nobody to becoming somebody in the triad ranks while constantly avoiding being completely ended by the justice system. Add on to that a tumultuous relationship with the character played by Tien Niu (The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2). Bloody stabbing's and shootings intensify matters and as a dramatic piece, Gangland Odyssey tries hard but feels whimsy at best. The character of Chen pretty instantly during a scene have an intense depression about being poor so on he goes from being lowly, to being a pimp and being part of multiple abuse scenes with his woman (set to comedic music!). The effects on family, honor etc take center stage later on and although played melodramatically, the ideas are sound and Alex Man a good enough actor to elevate the material. This never happens though and the film, despite setting its gangster war on the outskirts of the metropolis mostly, reeks more of an ordinary tale. Also with Chan Chung-Yung (Asian Connection).

Gangland Odyssey (1990) Directed by: Michael Chan

One of probably a dozen or two triad potboilers Andy Lau and Alex Man took part in, this directed by Michael Chan (his only film in that capacity and credited as Charles Chan on the print). Chan opens the film with the veteran cast in bad wigs and clothes but showcases some intriguing hard boiled style that will crop up again whenever the gunplay and brutal violence hits. Aspects that are really the only ones worth remembering from Gangland Odyssey as nothing outside of that ranks as original. Hardly a genre where that was often possible though. Action director Danny Chow logs dependent work, with the highlight being a neat samurai sword fight between Chan and Luk Chuen during the finale. Shing Fui On, Ng Man Tat, Alan Tang, Regina Kent and Tien Niu also appear.

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Gangs (1988) Directed by: Lawrence Lau

Long before the acclaim Lawrence Lau received for his dark youth-drama Spacked Out (2000), he debuted with this similar feature, Gangs, shot in 1988. Detailing the crumbling of the unit of teenage gang boys, Lau's vision is dark, relentless and not in any way uplifting. Shot in synch sound and on the Hong Kong streets, a heightened form of gritty realism is easily achieved and proves to be an effective tool for Lau's social commentary to manifest itself. The message on display isn't fresh but the subject matter is still valid, mainly concerning the clouded minds of the gangs in addition to an examination of a less than solid parental unit. Gangs does really hit home as it should but it's hard to connect to any characters due to them being quite undistinguishable. It's not a full on hindrance though as Lau gets natural performances from his young cast and the piece really doesn't need full characters. Instead, Lau aims to fill the frame with his grave concerns and does so effectively. He wouldn't give up on portraying youth culture, as in the mentioned Spacked Out, but thankfully further down the line, we saw more positive lights in Lau's work through the terrific and underrated Gimme Gimme.

Gangs was nominated for several Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director but that year mainly belonged to Stanley Kwan's Rouge. A decision on the behalf of the jury that I won't argue against.

Gangs '92 (1992) Directed by: Dick Cho

Not attempting to echo any gritty street realism of Lawrence Lau's Gangs nor managing to echo any quality of filmmaking, Gangs '92 is yet another drifting youths getting in more trouble than they can manage-template and of course it means bloody consequences by the end. Aaron Kwok is a rich boy hanging out with the film's pick pocketing and gambling gang for very unexplored reasons but via the ingredients of Jimmy Lung and Karel Wong we get a final reel of compelling triad violence and action. It might not be in the staging but with this final hard edge, it's quite sufficient. Here director Dick Cho has his grit. Disposable but watchable on repeat at least twice for the final reel alone.

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General Stone (1976) Directed by: Tao Hung

Released by Goldig Films, General Stone looks unusually impressive with an epic frame and decent battle scenes carrying it. Simple enough story-wise as the Tang patriots are battling the evil king Wong Chiao (Lung Fei), into this comes Dorian Tan's Chun Chao who gets trained by the spirit of his father (now a General in stone spirit form, literally) before joining the resistance. Sluggish kung-fu highlights why General Stone doesn't work at all but the inventive aspect of the stone spirits adds a ghostly aura the filmmakers clearly enjoy. Culminating in a fun room of traps sequence before Tan joins the real world where only occasionally his excellent kicking skills are put to good use. Co-starring Polly Kuan.

The Generation Gap (1973, Chang Cheh)

The problem lies in the name really as this is conceived and executed by old men trying to make a gritty and realistic youth movie but being incredibly insecure in terms of HOW to make one. Chang Cheh wasn't totally out of his league making this kind of drama (see 1969's Dead End) but The Generation Gap is a whole other level of technically competent but embarrassing melodrama. At center is Ling Xi (David Chiang) and Cindy's (popular singer Agnes Chan, who has about 4-5 songs featured and shoe horned into this long movie) forbidden love. The respective families want them to further their education and not love each other, they want independence and it all goes to hell. All while each and every character explains to us exactly why it does and did. Chang Cheh was more comfortable using subtle beats when making kung fu or swordplay movies but there's nothing subtle to be found here. There is a valid story of a youth versus adult perspective and depicting the irrationality of each side present here but the capable nature of the veteran filmmaker is very much absent. It's awkward how he depicts youth culture (the scenes at the disco are high comedy but not meant to be) and no emotions come even close to real thanks to the insistence of on the nose story-beats. Not just visually but verbally. Have a little faith in your audience but the adult was clearly afraid of perception. Despite the length and flaws, the Shaw Brothers production is oddly watchable (they had the means to pull it all off but didn't) and sparse action is gritty in a welcome manner. But The Generation Gap just confirms which atmosphere and surroundings were needed for Chang Cheh's drama to come through and it's evident he realized this too. Ti Lung appears in a couple of scenes as Chiang's brother.

Gen-X Cops (1999) Directed by: Benny Chan

On its own terms, an entertaining zero brains Westernized actioner populated with the youth crowd's favourite singers and actors. At the time fresh faces such as Nic Tse do as well as they can but for impact, turn your eye to the veterans. Especially Francis Ng, having his trademark flamboyant craziness switched on and he also brings seriously inept English dialogue into the land of cult status. No, no one should give him and his rough delivery starring roles in Hollywood any time soon but these foul and now classic lines are a factor in bringing Benny Chan's Gen-X Cops into acceptable territory. Chan and Media Asia gives us what we expect, some of it is cringe worthy, some of it unexpectedly involving on the light entertainment side. Also starring Daniel Wu who whines himself through the performance, Eric Tsang, Sam Lee, Stephen Fung, Grace Yip, Jaymee Ong, Moses Chan and Toru Nakamura.

Universe's now old disc was a rare excursion into producing a special edition Hong Kong dvd as it included cast & crew commentary, deleted scenes and behind the scenes material, most of it subtitled in English.

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