Best Gambling Movies #21 (God of Gamblers)
My series, “Best Gambling Movies of All Time” continues with #21 — a hysterical Asian film titled, “God of Gamblers.”
Title and Year: God of Gamblers (1989) a.k.a. God of Gambling
Director: Wong Jing
Actors: Chow Yun-fat
Synopsis: A legendary gambler suffers an accident and loses his memory and must try to regain his supernatural powers over chance.
Among the “best gambling movies” that few have seen is the spectacularly successful film and series, God of Gamblers, released in 1989.
Think of Bruce Lee meets Quentin Tarantino, only set inside a casino.
This film must be included on any “best gambling movies” list simply because it spawned more hit movies and spinoffs than any film of this genre in history. The series made a fortune. It even produced hit songs and soundtrack.
All of this took place in Asia, and specifically Hong Kong, where God of Gamblers was conceived, filmed, and released. Later, the film series caught fire in China, therefore making it the most lucrative gambling movie franchise in history:
God of Gamblers Series:
God of Gamblers (1989) — the original
All for the Winner (1990) – Stephen Chow is the Saint of Gamblers in this popular God of Gamblers parody.
God of Gamblers II (1990) – This film continues where the original God of Gamblers storyline left off. This time, Andy Lau’s character teams up with Stephen Chow’s character from All for the Winner. Chow Yun-fat did not return for this film, but his God of Gamblers character did show up for a brief cameo appearance using archive footage.
God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai (1991) – A sequel to God of Gamblers II starring Stephen Chow. He accidentally goes back in time to Shanghai in 1937, and tries to figure out how to return to Hong Kong in 1991.
God of Gamblers Returns (1994) – Also released under the name God of Gamblers 2, this is the ‘true’ sequel to the original God of Gamblers film, with Chow Yun-fat back to reprise his role as the God of Gamblers.
God of Gamblers 3: The Early Stage (1997) – A successful prequel of the original God of Gamblers, starring Leon Lai as Ko Chun. It may be assumed that this is a reboot to the God of Gamblers series because of the inconsistencies with the previously established story of God of Gamblers e.g. Ko Chun and his bodyguard, meet for the very first time in the first film and therefore should not know each other in this prequel.
From Vegas to Macau (2014) – This film once again stars Chow Yun-fat as a gifted gambler, though his character and the film’s plot is unrelated to the God of Gamblers series. However, Chow (in a dual role) makes a cameo appearance as the original God of Gamblers, Ko Chun, at the end of the film. The film also ends with a remixed version of the original God of Gamblers theme music.
From Vegas to Macau II (2015) – Chow Yun-fat returns as the gifted gambler, Ken. The film’s plot is, again, unrelated to the God of Gamblers series. The film also ends with a remixed version of the original God of Gamblers theme music as Chow (in a dual role) makes a cameo appearance as the original God of Gamblers, Ko Chun at the end of the film. Andy Lau also makes a cameo appearance and reprises his role in the original God of Gamblers as Little Knife.
From Vegas to Macau III (2016)
God of Gamblers Spin-offs:
The Top Bet (1991) – This is a spin-off of All for the Winner, with only a few characters from the original reprising their role. Stephen Chow did, however, make a cameo appearance in this spin-off. The film stars Anita Mui and Carol Cheng.
Fist of Fury 1991 (1991) – Stephen Chow’s Saint of Gamblers character does a brief cameo appearance at the start of this film.
Fist of Fury 1991 II (1992) – Sequel to the first movie. The plot continues where Fist of Fury 1991 ended.
Saint of Gamblers (1995) – A spin-off of the All for the Winner series, with only Ng Man-tat reprising his role.
My Wife is a Gambling Maestro (2008) – A parody of the first film directed by Wong Jing, but with a completely different cast and a romantic comedy plotline
Chow Yun-fat, an international superstar who later made it in Hollywood as an award-winning actor in several blockbuster films plays a suave, James Bond-like gambler, always perfectly attired, masterfully in control, and always this victor. Then, he hits his head, loses his memory, and is reduced to the mentality of a child. To save himself and his compatriots, he must somehow get his powers back, and that’s the plot of this film.
God of Gamblers isn’t a great movie. But it’s a farcical romp of absurdities that’s often fun to watch and clearly deserving of consideration among the pantheon of classics.
Let’s also point out the popularity of this film series throughout Asia — viewed by tens of millions — very likely contributed to the explosive growth of Macau’s casino scene and stoked the illusions of many that they too could master the gods of chance and overcome the odds.
Hence, God of Gamblers may very well be the most significant movie on the topics of gambling ever made.
Note to English-speakers: This film is difficult to find in an original format that’s suitable for viewing. The only version I’ve seen in the English language has some very bad subtitles, but that in some ways contributes to the fun.
Best Gambling Movies