Chow Yun Fat is Ko Chun, the invincible God of Gamblers. A freak accident results in amnesia, but leaves his supernatural skills unscathed. Unaware of his true identity, small time hustler Andy Lau sets out to explore Chow's talents on Hong Kong notorious gambling circuit, only to find himself the target of viscious gangsters hell-bent on eliminating them both and usurping Ko Chun's crown.
Back in the early days when I was getting more into Hong Kong cinema, after I started to branch out on the type of films I watched, I pretty much only knew of Chow Yun Fat from two roles, Tequila in Hard Boiled and Ko Chun in God Of Gamblers (although back then I didn't know he was called Ko Chun). The reason for this is because those are roles where he is the suave, cool guy who seems to be able to do very little wrong. Tequila was the kick ass 'God' with the gun, whereas in this film he was a 'God' with cards (and a rather dab hand with the gun too). They are the characters that make films more interesting and exciting and ultimately more memorable for the viewer.
God Of Gamblers is a rather disjointed film in that it seems to comprise of two completely different style films, both revolving around gambling, which happen to cross paths near the beginning and again near the end of the film. The mood of the film is drastically different in each of these parts and in all honestly, one of the parts is a lot better and more entertaining than the other. What I am referring to are the scenes revolving around Chow Yun Fat when he is the God of Gamblers and the scenes where Chow Yun Fat is Chocolate. To understand what I'm meaning without having seen the film requires a mild spoiler. It is nothing major and it takes place early in the film. Basically Ko Chun falls and hits his head and suffers memory loss and a change in character and personality. He becomes very much like a young child, but with a few things remaining in tact, namely his love of chocolate and his ability in gambling.
The scenes where he is Ko Chun, the God of Gamblers, are where the film is in its forte. Greatly helped by and reflected in Chow Yun Fat's extremely confident acting, these scenes are stylish, cool and ooze charm and charisma. The gambling scenes themselves are equally as cool. The confidence, without crossing over into arrogance, which Ko Chun exudes, makes him all the more cooler and enviable. While the final gambling scenes provide the plot twists and ingenuity in story to make them entertaining, my favourite gambling scenes are actually the ones almost at the start of the film where Ko Chun has been challenged by a Japanese man. Some of what you see on screen can be described as gambling martial arts. There is choreography as the gamblers compete for the best pieces in the contest and it is highly entertaining to watch. The story and entertainment are at their best when Ko Chun is the God of Gamblers.
Then there is when Ko Chun is Chocolate, the child in a man's body. He's used by Knife (Andy Lau) once his gambling powers are discovered. In all honesty I found some of these scenes to be bloody annoying to watch. Having a kid on screen whining, screaming and being all childish is pretty much expected from children, so it is more or less tolerable. However, having a grown man doing this on screen, despite it being part of the character at that point, is not quite so tolerable. After not too long of this sort of behaviour I couldn't tolerate it much more. There are elements of something very typically Hong Kong in movie style during these scenes too, and that is the out-of-place, very bad, attempts at humour. Yet again the lack of humour in these supposed humorous moments brings the film down a bit more. The only times I found myself really interested in what was going on while Ko Chun was chocolate were when that plot thread was becoming entangled with the God of Gamblers plot thread. This is because those scenes generally involved gunfights.
Second to the gambling the gunfights are the next best thing in God Of Gamblers. There aren't that many of them at all, but what is lacking in volume is made up for in quality. The body count is high, the magazines in the guns seem like they never need to be reloaded and the violence is intoxicating! It is fast paced, some of the bad guys have taken shooting lessons so can actually hit their target every now and then and most importantly it is very entertaining. I particularly liked Ko Chun's bodyguard's switching-shooting-hand-while-being-bear-hugged move. Smooth!
All the acting is of a good standard in the film with no one really standing out, except Chow Yun Fat. As much as I wasn't as keen on the Chocolate scenes, Chow's portrayal of a man with a kid's personality obviously was effective, indicated by me being irritated by it! The main plot thread, once it gets back on track from the Chocolate side-track, is very well thought out and it allows the genius that Ko Chun evidently is to shine through. His outsmarting of his enemies is believably done, which is a relief as if it was made ridiculous, a lot of the film's credibility would have been lost. As it stands God Of Gamblers for me is a very solid film which is brought down a notch by the middle half where Chocolate is damn annoying.