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The Top Bet
Chinese: 賭霸 "We can't believe they released this on DVD,"
Ng Man-Tat, Anita Mui, Yuen Wah and Carol Cheng
Year: 1991
Director: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai, Corey Yuen Kwai
Producer: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai, Corey Yuen Kwai
Action: Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Tak
Cast: Carol Cheng Yu-Ling, Anita Mui Yim-Fong, Ng Man-Tat, Kenny Bee, Lowell Lo Koon-Ting, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Corey Yuen Kwai, Shing Fui-On, Yuen Wah, Jeff Lau Chun-Wai, Paul Chun Pui, Wu Fung, Lau Shun, Lo Hung, Dion Lam Dik-On, Tai Bo, Man Wa, Chan Ging, Joh Chung-Sing, Stephen Chow Sing-Chi
The Skinny: All for the Winner sequel/God of Gamblers ripoff is decent fun, though dated and of very little consequence. Fans of Anita Mui, Carol Cheng and/or Ng Man-Tat should apply within.
by Kozo:

Somewhat forgotten sequel to the blockbuster All for the Winner continues the story of "Gambling Saint" Sing, except there's very little Sing in Top Bet. Shortly after trumping evil bastard Hung (Paul Chun) in the previous film, Sing (Stephen Chow, in a bookended cameo) decides to take time off to travel the world. However, Chun isn't about to go quietly into gambling obscurity; he reups with a Super King of Gambling Competition, and wacky triad Chun (director Jeff Lau), who backed Sing in the last film, wants Sing to participate. However, as mentioned in the opening sentence, there's no Sing, meaning Uncle Tat (Ng Man-Tat, doing the patented Ng Man-Tat thing) finds his balls in a vise grip. Making matters worse is the fact that Tat can't even contact Sing, meaning possible death via triad regulars. What's a wacky mustachioed uncle to do?

Luckily Tat has not one, but two options for Sing's gambling replacement. First up is May (Anita Mui), who just so happens to be Sing's sister. May has been sent by the Mainland to clean up Sing's "disgrace" (using psychic powers for money = bad), and is leery of helping out Tat, but finds her own reasons for sticking around Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Tat looks to recruit the "Queen of Gambling", fishmonger Fanny (Carol Cheng). She purports to be a master of gambling, but is really nothing more than a cheap grifter (or a "sharper", in gambling parlance). The two girls go head-to-head with their powers; Fanny pretends to have them, and May tries to make Fanny look bad. Still, it's all good for the motley bunch of Hong Kong pals; circumstances do arise which make banding together a virtual lock. Aside from the evil machinations of Hung (who hires his own Mainland psychic played by Lau Shun), there are heart-tugging personal issues. Fanny wants to win dough to help out her wheelchair-bound brother, and May is hot for a two-but thief (Kenny Bee in an overacting dopey performance). As you'd expect, they'll join forces to do the evil guy in, AND make time for the settlement of their personal conflicts. It's practically how all movies should end.

The Top Bet is pretty standard early nineties Hong Kong fare, meaning slapstick comedy, obscure cultural references, and a lot of uneven mugging. The results are equally standard: sometimes funny, sometimes not-so-funny, sometimes annoying and sometimes pretty entertaining. Still, The Top Bet can't really hold a candle to either Stephen Chow or Chow Yun-Fat's gambling epics, because neither Anita Mui or Carol Cheng are given characters which own the film. Cheng is the sassy Hong Kong diva, while Mui is the lovable Mainlander with surprising kung-fu skills. Both are likable, engaging leads, but neither are as charismatic as Chow Yun-Fat's Ko Chun, or as lovably off-the-wall as Stephen Chow's Sing. It would have been nice to see a stronger or better defined female gambling hero.

However, that disparity isn't an indictment of either actress, who both turn in fun comic performances. Instead, it's a criticism aimed directly at the filmmakers, who didn't give the girls more to do. Once you factor in the packed supporting cast—including Sandra Ng, Corey Yuen (who co-directed), Yuen Wah, Wu Fung and Lowell Lo—The Top Bet is long on nonsensical minutiae, and short on a cohesive gambling narrative. The final gambling duel does contain some fun reversals and moments of humorous tension, but there really isn't enough of that. Ultimately, this is fun stuff, but not as good as the stuff it was aping. Fans of the actresses, and of Ng Man-Tat (who should be inducted into the Wacky Sidekick Hall of Fame), will likely find much to enjoy here, but for those seeking the best recommendations of the gambling genre, The Top Bet isn't more than a minor footnote. (Kozo 2003)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Fortune Star / Deltamac
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

 image courtesy of Deltamac Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen