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  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

In Mandarin with Chinese and English Subtitles
Director: Chan Hing Kar
Cast: Louis Koo, Lau Ching Wan, Josie Ho, Cherrie Ying, Stephy Tang, Jo Kuk, Wong You Nam, Lam Suet, Jacky Heung
RunTime: 2 hrs 2 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 29 October 2009


Randy (Louis Koo) is the heir to a major casino business, but has never been interested to inherit the gaming empire after his father’s death. While Uno (Lau Ching Wan) has been helping to run the business, he has every intention for Randy to take over the business empire. Randy is obsessed with online gaming of Texas Hold 'Em Poker and Uno takes the opportunity to put Randy in a real tournament. Randy is put through some hardship before he learns the art of the game. Along the way, Randy falls in love with Smiley (Cherrie Ying), a girl who has a winning streak at the casino. Meanwhile, Uno starts a relationship with rival casino owner Ms Fong (Josie Ho). At the end of the championship match, the two top players – Randy and Uno face off against each other. As the last hand of cards is dealt to the two players, who is going to be the Poker King?

Movie Review:

If there is one proverbial theme in the history of Hong Kong cinema, it has got to be gambling. Indeed, the theme has been immortalized from the cool action flicks such as "God of Gamblers" and "Casino Raiders" to the broad slapstick comedies of "Kung Fu Mahjong" and "Fat Choi Spirit". The latest director to take a stab at what has become a cross-genre theme is Chan Hing-Kar, better known for his fluffy romantic comedies "La Brassiere", "Mighty Baby" and "Good Times, Bed Times".

Each of the three comedic hits also boasted the one-two combo of Lau Ching Wan and Louis Koo, so it’s not surprising that Chan Hing-Kar would reunite the two of them for yet another agreeable, if throwaway, diversion. And sticking to the tried and tested, "Poker King" is first and foremost a romantic comedy- despite what its poster and title might suggest. Yes, almost anyone consequential in this movie here will eventually end up with someone else happily-ever-after, and no one goes away empty-handed (pun intended).

This must come as somewhat of a surprise, since what receives top billing here is the rivalry between Jack Chang (Louis Koo), son and heir of a wealthy casino tycoon, and Uno Cheuk (Lau Ching Wan), business partner of Jack’s father. In a clearly outmatched poker game, Jack loses the rightful business to Uno and is reduced to a pauper overnight. As you’d probably expect, Jack and Uno will meet in a final climatic showdown, and sweet victory will come to the person who deserves it.

But before you think this is going to be a thriller, know this- Jack and Uno are more friendly rivals than arch bitter enemies, or at least that’s how it is portrayed in "Poker King". While greedy and somewhat arrogant, Lau Ching Wan’s Uno Cheuk is a smarmy, but never detestable, businessman. On the contrary, he’s actually pretty likeable. He’s also more interesting as the rags-to-riches gambling addict who ascends to the higher echelons of society but is disillusioned by the disparity with the kind of life he grew up in.

Unfortunately, the movie seems to be more interested in the rise-and-fall of Louis Koo’s Jack Chang, spending more than half its time on Jack’s budding romance with a sweet girl called Smiley (Stephy Tang) whom he thinks is his lucky charm, as well as Smiley’s friend Ho’s (Wong You Nam) own crush on a pretty casino dealer. Their romantic dalliances will no doubt be cute and cloying to the younger audience brought up on urban romantic comedies Stephy Tang is a go-to actress for, but everyone else will probably be rolling their eyes at the sometimes cringe-worthy dialogue.

Of course, it is also a distraction from the supposed competition between Jack and Uno, so much so that even up till their final battle filmed during the Asian Poker Tour Macau Festival, you won’t feel much tension between the two, or worse still, care who wins in the end. Luckily then for the always reliable actor Lau Ching Wan, who boldly hams it up for the movie, as well as Louis Koo, who effuses a affable enough air for you to warm up to his character through the movie’s sometimes unfunny shenanigans.

"Poker King" may share the same proverbial gambling theme as countless other Hong Kong movies before its time, but it is cut from the same mould as writer/director Chan Hing-Kar’s previous romantic comedies. One big difference of course is its Macau setting and its lavish brightly-lit casinos, set to rival Las Vegas as the number one gambling destination in the world. For all the excesses its location promises, "Poker King" is a lean comedy that is enjoyable enough as a distraction, but nothing more.

Movie Rating:

(It may not always have a good hand, but "Poker King" deals out enough laughs to make this a pleasing romp)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. Look For A Star (2009)

. House Of Mahjong VCD (2006)

. The Luckiest Man DVD (2008)

. My Wife Is A Gambling Maestro DVD (2008)


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