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t (2005)
Kung Fu Mahjong


Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 01/06/2008

I imagine that Roger Kwok had a rough time of things on the set of “Kung Fu Mahjong”. His modest talent was simply overwhelmed by the difficulties in portraying Ah Long, a character that would tax the ability of a much better actor. The part cries out for subtlety. It needs to be underplayed and approached carefully. It is the job of the director to help an inexperienced artist rein in his tendencies for histrionics, to inhabit instead of impersonate the character. The director needs to help the actor interpret a role, keeping in mind that the camera exaggerates and amplifies every move, tic or glance. Great film actors understand this but it must be learned. Based on his performance in this movie Roger Kwok is not on his way to join Laurence Olivier or Michael Caine as one of the best.

Wong Jing had a large role himself, often sharing the screen with Kwok which made it difficult to keep an eye on other performances—if he was interested in doing so. There isn’t much indication from his long and successful career that Wong Jing had much of an interest in the techniques of acting. So Kwok started out at full speed with all the twitchy weirdness of Ah Wong on display from the beginning. Later in the movie when he is injured and becomes “retarded” there isn’t any place for him to go, no way for him to show his character was different after his beating than before. With that the center of the movie collapses, taking the enthusiasm of the audience with it.

Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu didn’t need much help since both were reprising characters from “Kung Fu Hustle” that helped them revive their careers. The extended screen time for Jade Leung was a real delight. Her role as Phoenix, the Queen of Gamblers, was a supporting character but her quiet professionalism was a welcome break from the frenetic activity of the leads and she looked great in her many screen filling close-ups. Theresa Fu is a very attractive young actress who played a very attractive young woman, the love interest for Ah Wong. There wasn’t much for her to do other than look fetching, which most capably carried out. Because I am one who worships at the shrine of Chingmy Yau I was a bit annoyed at Overbite Jan although Iris Wong is a talented comic actress who carried things off quite well.

However...

Despite all the obvious flaws in “Kung Fu Mahjong” there is no question that Wong Jing, when he decides to put himself to work, can compose, shoot and edit a scene as well as anyone. I don’t know how to play mahjong—-don’t know how one wins or loses; how one would bet on it or the way one would cheat, although the way that Tin Kau Ko cheated, by having an extra tile in his hand, seemed to be something that even a rank amatuer would catch. Most of the “mahjong” scenes in the beginning of the movie were dull, enlivened only when Auntie Fei or Chi Mo Sai did something outrageous. But the last round of the tournament, pitting Ah Wong against the evil Tin Kau Ko and his henchman with Phoenix Girl trying to keep things on the level, was quite exciting. Even though the actual play of the tiles remained a mystery, this extended sequence had some of the claustrophobic agitation as, for example, some of the games of straight pool in “The Hustler” or the poker games in “The Sting”. This was only for a few minutes, though—a wonderful scene that was a sad contrast to the slapdash style and content of the rest of the film.

Not recommended


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/26/2006
Summary: YIKES!!

What a obvious clone of "God of Gamblers" with none of its charm or wit!!
And Wong Jing doing that Mantis style kung fu, isnt that from another one of his movies, was it "tircky master 2000"???

So unoriginal its disturbing, that Wong Jing would parts of his different movies into one movie, how can he get away with this???

A laugh or two and the performances are great from all the actors,
just the script itself is the main downfall for this movie and its too big of a downfall to recommend to anyone unless they want to learna bout mahjong!!

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 03/04/2006
Summary: new comedy about popular game

Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu join producer/director Wong Jing in a new comedy about the popular game of Mahjong. This film was cleverly and quickly rushed into the cinemas to capitalize on the success of the Stephen Chow Sing-Chi comedy Kung Fu Hustle. This new film has nothing to do with Chow's film other than the two actors and the Kung Fu in the title. Screenwriter Wong has a good time using just about everything in his arsenal of convention and cliche from all of gambling and conman movies he's ever made. He even bring's back his "Praying Mantis Style" from an earlier film.

Roger Kwok is cast as a savant with a perfect memory, a skill needed to play the game. He's groomed by Yuen Wah and gains a reputation as a strong player. Later, he takes a serious beating over a girl, losing some motor skills. Everyone thinks he is crazy and at this point the viewer starts to question his own sanity. Kwok kept making me think of Eric Kott and Nick Cheung and his performance here made me squirm in my seat.

Thankfully, there is Theresa Fu Wing's performance. She's going to be a big star in the next few years. Iris Wong plays a character here that roundly skewers Wong's old girlfriend Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching. Her costumes and actions are so like Yau's it is uncanny. Wong has the last laugh putting huge buck teeth on Ms. Wong to exaggerate Yau's toothy smile. Watch for Tenky Tin Kai-Man in a funny cameo role along with my new favorite actor, Lam Tze-Chung.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/30/2005
Summary: 4/10 - just about worth watching

Wong Jing tries to do for Mahjong what KUNG FU HUSTLE did for kung fu (not hustlers)... but gets bored almost as soon as he starts and churns out yet another gambling film instead, that doesn't so much rehash as regurgitate elements from many or any of his previous 10,000 gambling films. The film feels lazy, and a couple of CG effects can't disguise the lack of time, money and effort spent on it. Wong Jing has made some gems out of cheap cash-ins before, but KFM lacks the sort of deviant glee that might have made tired "homages" seem charming.

It also lacks a charismatic lead actor - Roger Kwok is essentially trying to take on a role that has been filled by Chow Yun Fat, Stephen Chiau, Andy Lau and Eric Kot previously... and Eric Kot is the only name on the list that Roger Kwok is even fit to wipe the floor with. Yuen Qiu and Yuen Wah seem to be there partly because they are enjoying the renewed popularity that KUNG FU HUSTLE brought them, but mostly because they had nothing better to do at the time. Nice to see them having fun, and they're still charming in a lesser film.

Young cookie Theresa Fu adds some youth & beauty to the cast, but doesn't have much screen time - a shame, as her scenes were amongst the best - whilst Jade Leung adds a more mature and sophisticated beauty, but isn't given a lot to do (despite having more screen time). Iris Wong is saddled with buck teeth and an annoying character for most of the film, so her contribution is probably best forgotten.

It's possible I would have enjoyed KFM more if I had the slightest idea what was going on in the mahjong scenes, but the exposition of the rules of mahjong delivered by Yuen Qiu seems to start from the premise that you know what the hell all those tiles are for and why people keep shouting "pong", at the very least. I haven't the slightest idea, though I could give you the names for a few of the tiles now. How the game is actually played remains a deep mystery, however. In FAT CHOI SPIRIT this lack of knowledge barely mattered, as the film-makers were able to convey the emotional ride of the games through the music, camera, editing etc, so that an ignorant viewer could follow the play without understanding the details. Not so with KUNG FU MAHJONG, whose gambling scenes left me completely cold - I can't say they confused me because the development of events is so utterly unsurprising if you've seen even one of Wong Jing's gambling films before.

The film is just about worth watching because of the old-timers' charms, but it could have been much better if the team had put even a little bit more effort/talent into the writing and direction.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 08/14/2005

Well, it didn't take too long for Wong Jing to crank out a Kung Fu Hustle knock-off. Actually, Kung Fu Mahjong isn't a full ripoff of Hustle, though there are certainly some similarities, most notably the pairing of Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu. Wah plays a low-level gambler who runs into a kid with photographic memory (Roger Kwok) while trying to get away from some loan sharks. Seeing dollar signs, Wah tries to convince Kwok's boss (Qiu) to let him gamble, but she will have none of it. However, the lure of big money and a need to use it to impress a pretty girl (Theresa Fu) convinces Kwok to team up with Wah and enter a tournament where he will take on the current "King of Gamblers" (Wong Jing).

The proceedings here are your usual Wong Jing fare, with lots of toilet humor, some goofy action sequences and a few movie parodies (but someone please tell Hong Kong film-makers to lay off the Kill Bill homages already; I think I've already seen three or four of these already this year, and the joke was already tired last year). Like I said before, despite the title and a couple of gags (such as Yuen Wah getting knocked off a building and then getting hit in the head with a flowerpot), Kung Fu Mahjong is closer in tone to Wong Jing's well-known gambling movies, rather than Stephen Chow's box-office smash.

That's not necessarily a bad thing -- I've enjoyed many of Wong gambling pictures. However, I hazy on the rules of mahjong, which made the "duel" at the end hard to follow. And Wong Jing seems to be running out of ideas; the finale echoes Wong's God of Gamblers, but not in a very good way. Despites its' flaws, though, Kung Fu Mahjong is a fairly solid (if unspectactular) gambling movie -- but one beigins to wonder how many times Wong Jing can go to the well before the bucket turns up totally dry.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]


Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 07/22/2005

Wong Jing's style of movies din change much after all this years. Taking a lot of element from Kung Fu Hustle and famous TVB series "Square Peg" this movie sure is funny. They even have the cast from Kung Fu Hustle in the show. Yeah... Yuen Wah and Yuen Feng,so anyone can expect the similarities. There are even similar scenes like the flower pot that drops on Yuen Wah's head was the same. Kwok Chun Onn's act was cool. It's been a long time since I saw him on the movies. His act. The jokes were kinda good actually as it's not only the actions but the converstation itself brings out a lot of laughter. Overall... funny but lack of originality.

Reviewer Score: 5