The Top Bet

Reviewed by YTSL

The gambling movie is a genre of a film that looks to be peculiar to Hong Kong cinema.  Among the more “classic” efforts of this group of works is the multiple sequels spawning “All for the Winner”.  Like with the particular production credited with having made Stephen Chow Sing Chi the King of Comedy that he undoubtedly now is (at least in East Asia, even if not yet globally), “God of Gamblers II” and “God of Gamblers III: Back to Shanghai” star the talent affectionately known to his fans and many others as Sing Jai.  Consequently, those two offerings came to be linked to that Jeff Lau and Corey Yuen Kwai co-directed work (as well as the first “God of Gamblers” that had the also popular Chow Yun-Fat in the title role)...despite their having been helmed by Wong Jing.

Anita Mui and Dodo Cheng
Although THE TOP BET is lesser known than many of the other works (no doubt because Stephen Chow only has a cameo part, and Chow Yun-Fat never makes an appearance, in it), this film may well have the best claim for being the follow up to “All for the Winner”.  For one thing, it is like that 1990 hit in having Jeff Lau and Corey Yuen Kwai at the helm.  For another, this familiar face filled offering boasts (re-)appearances -- albeit often only in the forms of cameos and/or flashbacks -- by the likes of Cheung Man, Sandra Ng, Corey Yuen Kwai along with Stephen Chow as well as Ng Man Tat (who once more plays the Uncle San whose body parts are apt to react adversely when addressed as such by his biological relatives) and Paul Chun Pui (who reprises his villainous Hung Kwong role).
Ng Man Tat and Lau Shun
For a third, THE TOP BET’s story looks to start where “All For the Winner” ends, albeit with Stephen Chow’s Ah Shing character deciding to reward himself by going off on a world tour.  Accordingly, the champion gamester was not available to compete in the Super King of Gambling Competition that a disgruntled Hung Kwong decides to stage in order to regain the gaming crown that he had recently lost to the self-anointed Saint of Gamblers.  Furthermore, as Ng Man Tat’s character initially proclaimed to no avail to Jeff Lau’s deranged but powerful Taiwan Chung character, Shing had not left his uncle with any means to contact him during the time that he was away from Hong Kong (and his native Mainland China).
Faced with the options of being paid with HK$10 million if he came up with someone who would win the gambling championship or getting killed by Taiwan Chung’s men if he didn’t, a desperate Uncle Tat decided to put his life into the hands of a self-proclaimed Queen of Gambling (The irrepressible individual named as Fanny as well as Yau Hei is essayed by the Carol (AKA Dodo) Cheng).  As the not exactly consistently canny man belatedly discovered though, the woman who he had seen depriving some fishermen of their precious fresh catch -- in a gambling den whose currency of choice came in the form of edible marine life! -- turned out to be a fraudster rather than genuine gambling genius.
Lowell Lo and Kenny Bee
As she showed at a tension fraught -- but still pretty funny to witness -- meeting with Taiwan Chung, however, Fanny turned out to not be entirely bereft of luck.  Similarly, Uncle Tat ended up having the good fortune of being paid a visit during his time of need by Ah Shing’s equally special powers endowed sister (Mei is portrayed by a show-stealing Anita Mui).  This anti-capitalist woman actually had been sent across the border by her superior security officer (who is played by Yuen Wah) to arrest her brother and bring him back to their Communist motherland.  Expectedly however, and even after displaying a considerable amount of reluctance to get her relative out of the bind that he had effectively gotten himself into, Mei ends up assisting Fanny in competing against the likes of the nefarious Hung Kwong (who, this time around, also has psychic assistance of his own courtesy of Lau Shun’s Yim Chung character).
Lest there be any doubt re THE TOP BET not being able to rival a Wong Jing gambling movie in terms of weirdness, here’s pointing out that Mei has the ability to do such as make a man vomit up mahjong tiles and another to expel the contents of a fish bowl out of his mouth as well as turn a woman into a bearded hermaphrodite!  Also, while this “Fairy of Gambling” is apt to be on the ignorant side when it comes to being able to tell the difference between volcanic ash (that is supposed to act as a facial cosmetic) and quick drying cement, she’s no slouch either in a fight.  Additionally, after Mei embeds a giant acupuncture needle into her head, Fanny becomes one other “only in Hong Kong movies” gambler whose bag of tricks includes the so important magical art of “card rubbing”... ;)

My rating for this film: 6.5