Mahjong Dragon



Reviewed by YTSL

When done right, as in the case of the superb "Peking Opera Blues", the mixing and matching of diverse elements can result in a wonderfully genre-transcending film.  With lesser efforts though, what one can end up with is a not particularly logical mish-mesh of a movie that feels too confused and/or schizophrenic to make for a generally enjoyable viewing.  Additionally, the production's better bits can not only feel wasted but also seem negated by their being in the company of lesser ones.

MAHJONG DRAGON has some comic sections that are rather amusing (many of which are provided by its lead actress, Josephine Siao Fong Fong).  Much of it comes from the portion of the film that centers on a gambling addict of a Hong Kong policewoman (Josephine Siao's Fan Sau Tin character plays mahjong as well as bets on horses and plays the lottery) who is considered to be such a jinx that the still single middle-aged dame consequently feels compelled to go look for a husband among Mainland Chinese men who will value her because she can provide them with a foreign passport.  Alternatively, this (re)viewer feels that this offering would have been better without the inclusion of the blunderbuss of a secret admirer played by Blackie Ko and also, really, a forgettable elderly aunt and uncle for the female protagonist.

Josephine Saio and Chiu Man Cheuk
This Corey Yuen Kwai, David Lai and Jeff Lau co-direction also has some good action sequences (notably those fights which pit the athletic Chiu Man Cheuk against the formidable Ken Lo).  MAHJONG DRAGON's hero is a handsome young man named Quick Hands.  As can be discerned from his having such an appellation, the individual Sau Tin met while on her husband shopping excursion is a master gambler (albeit one who is reluctant to play any more high stakes games, especially on behalf of a friend turned enemy whose Chinese name translated into Southern Dragon).  As one would expect of a character played by Chiu Man Cheuk, he also turns up to be a pretty talented martial artist.  As 'luck' would have it in this movie, so too is his hard-hearted rival (Southern Dragon/Tin Lone is menacingly portrayed of Ken Lo).
Although its title and the description of its main characters might seem to suggest otherwise, there actually isn't that much gambling action to be found in MAHJONG DRAGON.  Considering that it seems to contain pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, this is a rather ironic state of affairs.  I personally would have loved to see some skilled sleight of hand work (which do for gambling what Tsui Hark's "Chinese Feast" did for cooking).  Instead, valuable screen time and space on what turned out to be Josephine Siao's last film -- the former child star has retired to become a child psychologist -- got rather stupidly wasted on such as superfluous subplots involving:  A love-struck, physically ill lass who dreams of going to France and being cured by the Virgin Mary (Kwan is played by Desiree Lam); the long, dyed haired leader of a bunch of young Triad rascals; and a separate group of youngsters who make blue movies because they need the money to do such as pay for someone's grandmother's badly needed operation.
Ken Lo, Blackie Ko and Josephine
Perhaps all this would have made more sense, or felt more consequential, if MAHJONG DRAGON had been a better written, assembled, edited and directed film.  But it isn't, and they thus don't seem so.  Add to this already less than smooth mix the truly groan-worthy, clumsy and heavy-handed incorporation of references to 1997 -- the year of Hong Kong's Handover as well as when this film got released -- and accompanying political messages that are more like propagandistic platitudes than thoughtful assertions or suggestions.  All in all then, this is a movie that has a few entertaining sections but requires its audience to be largely tolerant and willing to generally switch off their brains when viewing it.
My rating for this film:  6.

DVD Information:

Distributed by Mei- Ah

The transfer is pretty clean - reasonably sharp.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English

There is no menu - thus zero extras.