Casino Raiders II

Good lord – could they have poured any more melodrama into a ninety-minute film? It feels like director Johnnie To pulls out just about every old dramatic device that he can think of in an effort to tug at the heart strings of the audience – perhaps to some excess though as it becomes almost amusing after a while. You just wonder what terrible thing will happen next – murder, a frame up, dismemberment, suicide, blindness, unwanted pregnancy, a wife sleeping with the enemy, an adorable abused girl and worst of all – Andy Lau having to dress up in a funny little outfit and work behind a fast food counter!

Other than the title and Andy Lau once again taking center stage, this film has no relation to either of the other two Casino Raider films. He shares top billing with Wu Chien-lien who he had teamed up with only the year before in the hugely successful A Moment of Romance. Even though they do share a motorcycle ride together, their underwritten and constantly arguing characters do little to generate the same heat and chemistry here that they had in the previous film - but there is one truly gut wrenching scene involving the two of them that is quite emotionally visceral.

Uncle Fan (Lau Siu-ming), Andy, Wu Chien-lien and Lee Sui-kei – run a small gambling enterprise on a houseboat off of HK. It quickly becomes clear (through a flashback) that they were once big time gamblers but one of Uncle Fan’s disciples (Kelvin Wong Siu) betrayed him, crippled him and framed Fan’s son, Kit (Wong Git), for murder. Andy is now training for the upcoming Asian Championship and for their redemption. One of the gambling exercises is for Uncle Fan to rapidly scale playing cards at Andy and have him pick out and catch a winning hand in mid-air!
Kelvin Wong, Lau Siu-ming and Lee Sui-kei
Before this happens though Kelvin comes back into their lives looking for a jade piece. What jade piece you might ask? Well, it seems that before the God of Gamblers retired he gave away two jade pieces that would allow anyone who possessed both to become the greatest gambler of all! Kelvin believes that Uncle Fan has it and he has his right hand thug Anthony Wong (in a wonderfully nasty performance) attempt to get it.
This all leads to some tragic occurrences – but that’s just the beginning. Soon Kit is released from jail – comes back to find that his wife is living with Anthony Wong and that his small daughter has been stowed with some relatives who have chained her up in a back room! To prove to Kelvin that he doesn’t want to challenge him in the gambling arena – he commits a horrific act of self sacrifice that leaves you stunned. And there are still lots of bad things waiting to happen. Monica Chan shows up from America on a mysterious errand and looks after Kit. As in nearly every film of this type – there is of course the final gambling showdown.
Andy, Monica Chan and Wong Git
Certainly, this is far from the lean and taut style that To perfected later in his Milkyway productions, but the film is engaging in a soap operish/popcorn eating way. Andy gives a stoic and handsome performance with an unlit cigarette seemingly always dangling from his lower lip, Wu Chien-lien is lovely if somewhat annoying - but that one traumatic scene makes up for it – but the story is all laid on with a very thick brush. The excessive number of characters and plot turns diffuse the emotional impact that the film should have had. Some other pluses are some nicely sung tunes from Andy (?) on the soundtrack – and the limited action that is choreographed by Ching Siu-tung has two terrific moments – one involving a car driving under two trucks and the other a boat flying onto a dock.

My rating for this film: 6.0



DVD Information:

Distributed by Universe

The transfer  is acceptable - a little soft in the indoor scenes but certainly watchable.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks 

Subtitles:  Chinese , English

8 Chapters

It includes it's own trailer but no others - but be warned the trailer has two major spoilers in it.

The sub-titles are easy to read.

Star File: Andy Lau