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King of Mahjong

Chapman To and Michelle Yeh in King of Mahjong.

Chinese: 麻雀王
Year: 2015
Director: Adrian Teh
Producer: Lim Teck, Allyan Yoo

Lai Chiang-Ming, Ang Siew-Hoong, Ho Yiu-Wang

Action: Che Kim-Fai

Chapman To Man-Chat, Mark Lee, Michelle Ye, Venus Wong Man-Yik, Adrian Tam, Lenna Lim, Cheronna Ng, Richard Low, Patricia Mok, Dennis Chew, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Tin Sum, Lo Hoi-Pang, Siu Yam-Yam, Yuen King-Tan, Mimi Chu Mi-Mi

The Skinny: Pleasant and totally inconsequential mahjong comedy that’s aided by a genial starring turn from Chapman To. People who don’t get mahjong, and those who expect Wong Jing-like antics, should probably be wary of this family-friendly Lunar New Year laffer. Those who like family-friendly Lunar New Year laffers, King of Mahjong is here for you.
by Kozo:

The hit Malaysian comedy King of Mahjong proves to be surprisingly adequate entertainment, if one considers that it’s a for-the-undemanding-masses Lunar New Year film. Adrian Teh (The Wedding Diary and its sequel) directs Chapman To as Pak Chong-Fatt, a genial dude who runs a small noodle joint along with his daughter Sassy (Venus Wong). But Fatt has a hidden past: He’s a mahjong wizard and was the first holder of the King of Mahjong title. However, for some reason Fatt ceded the spot to rival Zhang Shun-You (Singapore entertainment star Mark Lee), who’s gone on to win the King of Mahjong title for ten straight years and is now known by the puffed-up name Wong Tin-Ba. Fatt and You both trained in their mahjong skills under the same master (Eric Tsang), which means many flashbacks featuring Chapman To and Mark Lee wearing wigs and pretending to be young.

Zhang wants a rematch with Fatt for the King of Mahjong title, but Fatt is content with his simple life and wants none of it. Meanwhile, Sassy is incredulous that her father is happy being a noodle hawker instead of some mahjong superhero. Simultaneously, Fatt’s ex-wife Ramona (Michelle Ye) shows up on his doorstep requesting reconciliation, but she’s got ulterior motives – namely that she’d also like to see Fatt back competing in high stakes mahjong matches. Will Fatt play mahjong again or disappoint everyone around him? Not a surprise but of course Fatt eventually returns to the mahjong world, but not before dealing with numerous subplots that pad the film out to an unnecessary 110 minutes. There’s also mahjong action, which should thrill some audiences and totally lose others. Glorious tile combinations and rare winning hands pop up regularly, but those who know mahjong as that tile-matching game on their Windows desktop may not recognize such nuances. We’ll have to split the difference here.

Mo lei tau fans need not apply. King of Mahjong is not a nonsensical wackfest, as director Adrian Teh pushes kind, Pollyannaish sentiments instead of gambling craziness. Fatt is a guy who declares, “I don’t play to win,” while his mentor delivers wisdom like, “Playing mahjong is like learning to be a good person.” These sentiments are nauseating on the surface, but King of Mahjong is too low-key and unpretentious to ever be that annoying. It helps that Chapman To is so likable and decent as Pak Chong-Fatt, who’s basically some sort of mahjong monk, and Venus Wong is also fine as To’s mouthy daughter. The overacting is left to Michelle Ye, who’s more animated here than in her Hong Kong work, and Mark Lee, who mugs and twitches enough for the whole cast. Like Teh’s previous efforts, the film features eleventh hour speeches of realization and contrition – a contrivance no matter how you slice it, but whatever. King of Mahjong is a harmless populist film that’s too well-meaning, pleasant and inconsequential to hate on. So I won’t. (Kozo, 10/2015)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
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