God of Gamblers 3: Back to Shanghai (1991) Movie Review

“God of Gamblers 3” is my first entry into the popular “God of Gamblers” series. I believe there is 4 — GOG1 to 3, and then two GOG3’s, this one and another one, which is supposed to be a prequel. This movie is supposed to be a comedy, and it is a very funny movie, although I could have done without the opening, which has a sight gag about our hero in a portable toilet doing some hard squeezing and concentrating which we assume is, well, you know, but turns out not to be. Pretty standard Chinese humor, the kind that leaves non-Chinese people wondering, “Wha–? Was that funny?’ But the movie quickly gets better, and gets even more funny, and more awkward moments.

Let me once again paraphrase this review with my understanding of Chinese humor. For the uninitiated (and even for the initiated such as myself) it is a shock to the system to see what Chinese people consider “funny.” Like everything, I suppose it’s a matter of POV. The Chinese have, in my opinion, a pretty warped sense of humor. Even in comedies such as this, you’ll get some very bloody moments played straight, like hundreds of men shooting and cutting each other up with guns and knives, respectively, and others getting the shit beat out of them. And the very next moment everything will be groovy and everyone is laughing it up, despite a bloody massacre having just taken place. That’s what I’m talking about when I say, “Chinese humor.” Unlike the rest of the world, the Chinese have the ability to jump from bloody massacre to fart jokes without missing a beat. Personally, I find it somewhat hard to “get,” and even a little, well, “disgusted” by it. But this is Chinese humor, and if you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t watch so-called Hong Kong “comedies.”

“God of Gamblers 3: Back to Shanghai” is about Tiger Lui, who, while defending himself against a small army of super-powered gamblers (don’t ask), is sent back to Japanese-occupied Shanghai in the 1920s along with his uncle. There, we get the usual “Back to the Future” themes, like Tiger Lui trying to set up his uncle (who may or may not be gay) and keep the future straight while at the same time trying to get back home. Oh, and incidentally, despite having been transported 60 years into the past, Tiger’s cellphone still works and (I kid you not) can call the future, where he has quite a few spirited conversations with the police chief and the police department’s local super-powered cop. Yes, all of this is true, I am not making up one single thing.

Plot aside, the movie is quite funny, if you can get over some of the more ridiculous sight gags that seems to come out of left field. Once again, the warped sense of Chinese humor shows its ugly head when Tiger mistakenly falls in love with the retarded twin of an attractive woman, but doesn’t know she’s a twin, and thus keeps pursing the un-retarded twin, while the retarded twin is locked up in a basement somewhere. This becomes even more awkward and made me a little uneasy when they tell us the retarded twin has the IQ and understanding of a 5-year old, and the actions of Tiger and the retarded girl left me with images of child molestation. Yes, I know, it’s my western background coming to the fold. I suppose this might have been considered funny in Hong Kong. Hey, I could always use a good retard laugh, I guess. *shrug*

So does our hero and his uncle get back to the future? Yep, but not without the help of a group of super-powered police SWAT team, who opens a portal into the past, ropes down machineguns blazing to kill about a thousand Japanese soldiers (remember, the Japanese occupied most of China pre-World War II). The movie is pretty kooky, and you have to check your common sense and a lot of “civility” at the door or you won’t enjoy this movie. I enjoyed the movie for what it is — a warped Chinese comedy.

Maybe you’ll like it, too, but if you don’t, don’t come complaining to me. You’ve been warned.

Jing Wong (director) / Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Lung Chan …. Tiger Lui
Man Cheung …. Yee Mong
John Ching …. Tai-Kun

Buy God of Gamblers 3: Back to Shanghai on DVD