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Starring Chow Yun Fat this film has finally been given a decent DVD release on not one, but two DVDs. Previously this was only available on an awful region three release in 4:3 with burnt in subtitles (both Chinese and English on screen at the same time so that sometimes the English would be pushed off the bottom of the screen!). The picture quality was appalling to the point when the VHS was actually better. So, it’s been a long time coming for fans of the film, but finally here it is – a two disc special edition God of Gamblers DVD.

Majong pieces - not tasty
The Film
As you can guess from the title, this film is about gambling, specifically one gambler – the best of the bunch, the undefeated God of Gamblers. Ko-Chun (Chow Yun Fat) is the best gambler – not just at cards, but at dice and majong too. He has a great skill for knowing what card is next in the deck or what majong block has which score. After a successful game he sets up a very important game in the future for a lot of money. To keep him safe he is given a bodyguard called Mr Dragon to protect him until the game. Unfortunately one day he is attacked on a train, however the incredible Mr Dragon defeats everyone with a variety of different techniques from hand to hand to a scene reminiscent of Indiana Jones where he is about to be attacked by a very skilled swordsman but just looks at him, and pulls a gun. Stopping the train Ko-Chan alights and is walking down a dark road when he falls foul of a trap not intended for him set by Knife (the irrepressible Andy Lau). He falls down a hill and bangs his head violently and this causes a memory loss making him revert to a childlike state. Knife, his girlfriend Jane and his mentally inept assistant find him and take him into their home. Since they set the trap which hurt him they do not want to take him to hospital and so he lives with them. His fascination and hunger for a particular brand of chocolate leads to them naming him Chocolate as he has no form of identification on him.

Knife does not really like Chocolate however after he enlists his help in conning casino owner out of some money and it is here that he find out about Chocolate’s incredible gambling powers which are still present even if he doesn’t really know how to use them. Knife and his friends then start a gambling spree where they win big money using Chocolate’s skills. However while this is happening Ko-Chan’s girlfriend is murdered by one of his friends by accident after he tries to convince her that she should be with him. Unaware of this, Chocolate still gambles on and eats more and more chocolate. However Knife is captured by the casino owner who wants his money back. Only the God of Gamblers can save him, but will that be enough?

Mr Dragon will make you pay!

God of Gamblers is a fantastic film. So many great scenes and some fantastic action make this definitely recommended viewing. The subtitles are listed as being re-mastered on the cover and while this makes them sound great, they actually aren’t. There are a few typos and some of the sentences are a little unclear as to what the meaning actually is which is a shame. Still, at least they aren’t burnt in to the video. For the most they are acceptable and are a definite improvement on my previous version.

The acting is excellent and Chow Yun Fat again shines with his childish and scared Chocolate to the in control and formidable Ko-Chan. The action scenes are great however during a few of them it is slowed down for effect. This could have been better if it was filmed faster so that the end effect didn’t look like it has dropped frames. There are several major league fantastic scenes in this film and I’ll go through a few of them with you. During a gambling match Ko-Chan is playing majong with an opponent. They both want the same piece and use their game sticks to fight for it. The piece is thrown into the air and Ko-Chan catches it on his stick. Another excellent time is when Chocolate is just beginning to remember who he was and has to save Mr Dragon by shooting an evil henchman. Remember he is scared of all the noises and the guns but he is brave, reaches inside and leaves his hiding place and picks up a gun. While shooting the enemy as they race towards him, he flicks another gun up from the ground with his shoe, into the air and as he catches it, starts firing it straight away. All this to a very powerful soundtrack which I just love. It encapsulates the power, the excitement and really helps pump that adrenaline as it builds up to an almighty crescendo. It is a shame however that the soundtrack is only in Dolby Digital 2.0 though as 5.1 would have been fantastic.

What do you mean, these chips aren't edible?

This two disc set comes with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen disc and a 4:3 disc. The first features the longer 125 minute original Cantonese version while the 4:3 disc has the shorter international cut. I know for me at least which will be my disc of choice! The video quality however does leave a lot to be desired. Scenes outside have very poor quality video with masses of artefacts and very low quality colour. Inside is a slightly better story with less dirt on the print and better colours. However blacks blend in together so a room full of people wearing tuxedos means it is hard to see where one person’s suit ends and the next begins. Bright whites have a halo effect around them and the picture in generally is very soft which makes this quite poor in terms of video quality. It is definitely better than the previous DVD release but it is worse than I was hoping for. However after seeing the trailers present on the disc I dread to think of what could have been – even weaker colours, overly bright so I guess I should really keep my mouth shut.

As I mentioned, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese soundtrack is all that is provided here. It is scratchy in places, particularly during parts of the main theme tune which is present during all exciting scenes in the film. At times it also looked as though what the actors were saying was coming out of the speakers out of sync with their mouths. This wasn’t all the time but I certainly noticed it more than once during the film.

Kick a gun off the floor, catch it and shoot a baddie? That's why Chow Yun Fat kicks serious booty

The Trailers section is our first stop which features the Honk Kong version of the trailer as well as the international version. The International version is dubbed like a bad German porn film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – dubbing is wrong! The UK release trailer is next. I have never seen before such a variation in colour during three very similar trailers. The UK trailer is colour overload with lots of bleeding and orange faces everywhere. Not a word spoken either which again I assume is to lead unsuspecting action movie junkies into a foreign film. Too cheeky for words! The final trailer is for God Of Gamblers part 2 – Return of the God of Gamblers. I haven’t seen this film yet but it certainly looks bigger budget than before so I’ll be looking forward to watching this one.

Three Interviews follow this, one with Chow Yun Fat, one with Andy Lau and the other with Wong Jing. Each are presented in 4:3 and are not particularly good video and sound quality. At times it is hard to hear what is being said as the interviewees have limited use of English however it’s good to have these included to get the stars thoughts on their work. Chow Yun Fat in particular talks at length about his work with director John Woo for which a lot of people will know him for. At one point he says how much he does not like to work with guns and have so much blood present however what Woo says, goes so he does what he’s told when on set. The Wong Jing interview is a little sthort but the other two are of good length.

Biographies and Filmographies follow this for Chow Yun Fat, Andy Lau, Wong Jing, Joey Wong (Jane), Michiko (Tattooed lady) and Cheung Man (Janet). After this we have a selection of Production Photos of varying quality and of course, the animated menus.

Reservoir Dogs - Cantonese style
This is a great film with a lot of humour involved as well as some brilliant action and gun toting scenes. The use of camera movement also adds to the sheer excitement during certain scenes when backed up by the storming theme music. It is a disappointment to me that the video is so poor but as I said, it could have been much worse. The Interviews are a nice touch if a little un-professional and the different cut included is a good idea for completeness however why it remains at 4:3 is a mystery to me. I really enjoyed this and particularly if you like the God of Action, Chow Yun Fat, I’d suggest purchasing this as soon as possible.