Less than a year after appearing in “God of Gamblers II”, Stephen Chow, Ng Man Tat, Charles Heung and -- just very briefly -- Cheung Man show up once more in an offering that’s really a second sequel in name only to the 1989 production that established Chow Yun-Fat as the chocolate eating God of Gamblers. Unencumbered this time around by the presence of Andy Lau’s Knight of Gamblers (as well as Ko Chun himself), Hong Kong’s box office King of Comedy is free to cut loose and show off his personalized “mo lei tau” schtick. How far away he -- and director cum scriptwriter Wong Jing -- takes this effort from archetypal gambling movie territory can be amply illustrated by the 1991 film’s highlight section consisting of an exuberant “char siew pau (barbecued pork buns)” song and dance sequence rather than a tense gaming table stand off.
Then there’s the unconventional -- to say the least -- time travelling that sends the “Saint of Gamblers” (AKA Stephen Chow’s Chow Sing Cho character), his Uncle (Ng Man Tat is referred to as Third Uncle in this work rather than Uncle Tat, like previously), his cellular phone (which somehow still is able to connect with Sing’s real era) and a Communist Chinese gambling rival of his (named Tai Kun) back to 1937 Shanghai. As the magical ability endowed Sing belatedly found out, the exercising of his “highest level of power changes time and space”. Thus, although the first fifteen minutes or so of GOD OF GAMBLERS III: BACK TO SHANGHAI is set in 1991 Hong Kong, much of this fantastical movie -- one in which master gamblers have the capacity to see through solid objects and make other people hallucinate as well as perform all sorts of card tricks -- actually takes place 54 years earlier and a few hundred miles to the north.
My rating for this film: 6.5
I will agree with YTSL that the pork bun musical sequence performed in a McDonalds like fast food pork bun eatery was the highlight of the film, but I found much of the remainder of the story to be highly entertaining as well. Like many of Chow’s films this one started off a bit slowly for me, but from the halfway mark on it turns into an utterly delicious concoction of comedy, action, fantasy and romance. It switches as smoothly and quickly between these different genres as a racecar driver does lanes. There are a number of lovely comedic sequences – my favorites being Ng Man Tat’s unsuccessful attempts to kill Ding Lik and the exchange between Ng and Chow about how effeminate Ng is – “no I am a triad” “yes an effeminate triad” “no – I am a top killer” “yes an effeminate triad killer” – but also a number of action scenes in which Chow gets to display his terrific athletic skills. In one scene he takes on Billy Chow that is great fun as he telephones into the future for fight advice.
The supporting cast is excellent – John Ching Tung reprises his role from God of Gamblers II as Tai Kun, Jimmy Lee/Lung Fong is the odious right-hand man to Wong Wan-si’s Kawashima Yoshiko, Tien Feng as the Mayor, Yeung Ching-ching as the killer female working for Ding Lik and Sandra Ng as Chow’s future grandmother. Often too icy for my taste, Gong Li is a lovely revelation here as she plays twins – one beautiful and haughty and the other an adorable giggling child like woman. It’s a pleasure watching her let her hair down and have some fun for a change and even join in on the Pork Bun song!
For those who are as much a fan as I am of the Pork Bun Song, here are the English lyrics from this film.
Who loves pork buns most?
Who loves freshly baked pork buns
And lotus buns, lard buns, shark fin buns
Smashed bean buns, Guangdong buns
If you don’t like Guangdong buns
Then try the Shanghai buns
They’re also steamed bread, pork buns
Little steamed bread vegetable buns
My friend which one would you taste
No matter which one you will taste
Guangdong buns, Shanghai buns
Some like Guangdong buns
The song can also be found being sung charmingly by Nina Li in Four Loves and a small snippet of it in the Cinema City film, Chasing Girls. If anyone knows of any other instance please let me know.
Here are the lyrics from Four Loves:
Barbecued pork buns
Hot barbecued pork buns
Lotus seed paste buns
Let me tell you about pork buns
Vegetable buns, my friends
My rating for this film: 7.5, 10 for the Pork
Distributed by Mei Ah
The transfer is quite disappointing - it is full screen and the subs often run off the screen. The picture itself is watchable with a tiny bit of speckling and though not very sharp the colors are fine.
Cantonese language track only.
There is no menu - thus no Chapters or any other extras.
The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English.