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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Retro Review: Winners & Sinners (1983) #Hongkongcinema, #JackieChan

Winners & Sinners (Kei Mau Miu Gai Ng Fuk Sing)
Cast: Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Richard Ng, Charlie Chin, Stanley Fung
Genre: Action Comedy
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $21 million

Plot: Fresh from prison, 5 friends try to stay crime-free but inadvertently find themselves caught in a triad war

'Not So Much A Winner, But Also Not A Complete Sinner'

Watching Winners and Sinners, this offering definitely has shades of the British Carry On comedy films, as it tries to play on the strengths of its stars, the comedy and humour, whilst also incorporating and blending Chinese martial arts. 

The first of seven movies of the series, Winners & Sinners tells the tale of 5 lucky stars, who are a bunch of con artists, thieves, in reference to the title series, & how they met up and how they ended up in jail. Each character is different from the rest: Teapot (Sammo Hung) is the big guy who bullies people, Curly is a bushy haired activist who wears glasses, Vaseline is the smooth talker who tries to blag his way through situations, in an attempt to steal expensive watches, with Ranks as the group's leader. Rounding up the group is Curly's sister, who is not only a good cook, but who becomes the unwanted attention as the group's love interest.

Highlights include the singing family singing Rod Stewart's ''Young Hearts Be Free Tonight'', which was amusing, a dwarf robbing a store, as is a kick-ass fight involving Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung and Sammo beating up the bad guys. There is a scene where a naked Richard Ng walks into the living room and his convict mates aren't even aware he exists! Jackie Chan roller skating and doing the splits is also worth looking out for, as is him chasing down the bad guys, whilst wearing skates.

Despite these moments, Winners & Sinners isn't as good as the second film, My Lucky Stars: it's not as funny dialogue-wise, there is not enough good slapstick, no Eric Tsang or Sibelle Hu, not enough Jackie Chan and the story isn't that appealing. As for the fight scenes, they are sparse and yet also they are not so bad, but again, they were and are far superior in the follow-up. The Lucky Stars movies are more about the comedy than the action itself. Plausibly, My Lucky Stars is not the direct follow-up to this film; with notable differences being Eric Tsang's absence and that Teapot meets Jackie's character for the first time. In the sequels, we discover the two characters have known each other since childhood. 

I had a bit of a hard time concentrating whilst sitting through this movie; as I said the story is very bland, not that absorbing and I lost interest in it very easily. Many of the gags are sight gags and as silly as they are, they will make no sense to you if you do not understand the English translation. This is more of a Sammo Hung vehicle than a Jackie Chan one and yet Chan's scenes, as well as the fight scenes as relatively few as they were, were the best part of the film. & it's a comedy action film, as opposed to the other way round as an action comedy, as the comedy is more of the focal point and a showcase for the talents of the other actors (who all work extremely well with each other), moreso than as a Jackie Chan led film.

Be that as it may, Winners and Sinners domestic success in Hong Kong set the trend for contemporary action comedies to flourish from that particular region, during the 1980s and 1990s.

Final Verdict:

This is a simple comedy offering that is reminiscent of The Three Stooges and this also doubles up as more than less Hong Kong's culturally specific take on the Carry On movies and yet, the first movie in the series is surpassed by My Lucky Stars.

I know this is well received by fans of Hong Kong comedies, and of the Lucky Stars series, but I just didn't enjoy Winners & Sinners as much as I'd wanted to. Comedy-wise, a lot of it wasn't so good and the action, whilst it is good in places, I've seen better in other films and action comedy films. & Jackie Chan's fight set pieces are just as good in My Lucky Stars.

Good thing and luckily that My Lucky Stars did everything and got everything just about right, which Winners & Sinners didn't quite manage to do.


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