King Swindler (1993)

Directed by: Chu Yen-Ping
Written by: Foo Laap
Producer: Cheung Chuen
Starring: Sammo Hung, Sandra Ng, Tok Chung-Wa, Liu Chun, Hiu Hiu, Billy Gilman & Lau Kei


Sentenced to prison after gambling illegally, Yuan Chih Hih's (Sammo Hung) son Hao Hao gets temporary care by the police woman (Sandra Ng) who arrested her dad. Already a mother of 2 year old Tzu Tzu, the two get on well and Yuan is eventually encouraged to not drink and gamble his life away once out. Although the underground boxing circuit is calling and so is the risk of putting his family in danger...

The prospect of Chu Yen-Ping directing a children's comedy FEATURING kids normally didn't showcase any new flexibility or hidden creativity in the otherwise talented director (Golden Queen's Commando, Island Of Fire) and a lack of care or even confidence is evident in this flimsy mess of a movie. All over the map but with no fine focus on even the core family element, King Swindler instead grates.

Subtle things like multiple instance of toilet humour, the kids singing their own theme song and having what seems like a full reel to themselves on a day out without supervision, Chu is placing way too much confidence in the young performers ability to charm. But by watching their loud shenanigans for such a long time, it's hard not to feel annoyed. His heart is in the right place, showing kids being kids but even when balancing that against the story of the adults and their possible romance (in that way casting Sammo and Sandra is a good move) there's no click or synch. Sammo is usually quite dignified and fun, showcasing both some powerful (but brief) flashes of action but Sandra is left more to her own devices and mostly rehashes not so funny comedic personas from past movies in Hong Kong (this is a Taiwanese production).

It only gives way to brief glimpses of bearable and workable manic comedy like Sandra Ng acting as an undercover at a nightclub (a set used in multiple Chu Yen-Ping movies and even part of the score from Island Of Fire pops up here). Playing a waitress in a Playboy bunny outfit and in need of documenting the presence of a gangster and possible murderer, when she places her tiny camera in a huge piece of fake armpit hair, there is dopey energy present. Same when said gangster turns out to be a murderer triggered by circles but is calmed down by triangles, Chu's eye for the up tempo and silly is showcased well here.

The sentiment of wanting to become a better father isn't all that badly conveyed and a birthday scene uses heartwarming drama well but several strands and elements of wacky, less wacky, some dark, some light, some VERY annoying doesn't make King Swindler find a compelling core. It's mostly executed beats in varying amount of tones and it doesn't show up on screen as part of a charming and warm whole. There was a good movie to be made here but scattershot and flimsy is what we get instead.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson