With the back-to-back international success of both Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, the rest of the world finally knows what Asia has for some time, namely that Stephen Chow is possibly the funniest man on the planet. I for one immediately tracked down 1996's God Of Cookery after seeing the cinematic joy that is Shaolin Soccer, and sadly, coming off the high of that film, the "Iron Chef" like antics of God Of Cookery left me wanting. Now with his continued success overseas, many of his earlier comedies are being released onto DVD.
Chow Yun-Fat's God Of Gamblers topped the Hong Kong box office in 1989, making more than John Woo's The Killer and A Better Tomorrow III combined (which, incidentally, also starred Fat). It was inevitable that someone would cash in on the phenomenon, but no one could have expected Stephen Chow's gambling spoof, All For The Winner (1990), to actually outgross the original and inspire a bunch of sequels to boot! I've found that many Hong Kong comedies are painted with very broad strokes and there are certainly several head-scratchers in All For The Winner, but its focus on aping God Of Gamblers (Chow even watches the film at one point) keeps it firmly grounded.
A young Stephen Chow plays Sing, who has left his home in the Chinese countryside to live with his uncle "Blackie" (played by Shaolin Soccer's "Golden Leg," Ng Man Tat) in Hong Kong. The last thing Blackie wants is his nephew hanging around, especially when he's trying to win all his money back from a marathon mahjong session. Upon learning that Sing has been granted supernatural powers from a childhood accident, amazing abilities that allow him to see hidden things, gauge the health and demeanor of animals and even manipulate small objects, all of which can be applied to gain a decided advantage in skills of chance. Blackie begins teaching him the finer points of gambling.
Soon Sing's winning streak brings the attention of two professional gamblers: Hung Kwong from Hong Kong (your typical HK villain, including crutches and an artificial voice box), and his Taiwanese counterpart, Chan Chung. Both men want him to represent them in an upcoming gambling tournament. In a brilliant scene, Sing actually studies God Of Gamblers in order to present an air of sophistication and impress the men. He ends up falling hard for Chan's bodyguard, Yee Mong, who earlier acted as a double agent in Hung's organization to help secure Sing's services for her real boss. Sing easily works his way up through the tournament, but suddenly loses his abilities when Yee Mong is kidnapped before the final match, where he must face Hung Kwong, alone.
While not as jaw-droppingly great as his most recent works, there is still lots to love about All For The Winner. Chow plays the lowly bumpkin to a tee and his frequent co-star, Ng Man Tat, is hilarious as his scheming Uncle. The only negative I have with the film is that it was obviously made very quickly and for not a lot of money. So it really says something then about Chow as a comic gifted enough to carry a majority of the film on just the strength of his considerable talent.
Picture: The film is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen format. The transfer looks as good as can be, especially since I mentioned that this film was shot rather quickly on a low budget, with a good picture with some noticeable grain.
Audio: There are both a Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Track and a Mandarin DTS Track (w/English subs). The Cantonese track sounds as good as can be expected, as well as a decent 1990's Hong Kong soundtrack.
Extras: The only Extras included on this DVD are a Synopsis of the film (in English), some Cast and Crew info, the Theatrical trailer and a trailer for the upcoming Wong Kar Wai film, 2046.
Conclusion: With Chow rapidly gaining fans in this country, this DVD couldn't have come at a better time. While not as razor sharp as his most recent releases, All For The Winner is still a blast and a half. With tons of gags, goofs, non sequiturs, fantastic fight scenes and deliciously cheesy special effects what are you waiting for? It's Stephen Chow, who always comes Recommended.