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The Luckiest Man
The Luckiest Man     The Luckiest Man

(left) Chan Bak-Cheung, and (right) Deng Ziyi and Bosco Wong in The Luckiest Man.
Chinese: 大四喜  
Year: 2008  
Director: Lam Chi-Chung  
Writer: Lam Chi-Chung  
Cast: Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Bosco Wong Chung-Chak, Yuen Qiu, Monica Chan Fat-Yung, Pinky Cheung Man-Chi, Lam Chi-Chung, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, Deng Ziyi, Joe Cheng Cho, Cheung Tat-Ming, Tin Kai-Man, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Samuel Pang King-Chi, Viann Leung Wai-Ka, Lee Fung
The Skinny: A return to the Lunar New Year formula, minus the consistent laughs, big stars, and genial silliness the genre is known for. The Luckiest Man isn't the worst thing you'll see this year, but that's probably because you wouldn't normally choose to see it. Amazingly, Chan Bak-Cheung underacts.
by Kozo:

Is there life left in Lunar New Year movies? If The Luckiest Man is the evidence, then the answer is probably "no". Stephen Chow crony Lam Chi-Chung directed this uninspired genre retread, which possesses many hallmarks of the once-ubiquitous Hong Kong Lunar New Year films, like a crowded cast, family-centered shenanigans, and a near-relentless assault of lunacy masquerading as comedy. That formula has produced some winners in the past (Boys Are Easy, Fat Choi Spirit), but there have been some clunkers too (Always Be The Winners, The Lucky Guy). The Luckiest Man falls into the clunker category, and compounds things by possessing a cast of only B or C-list actors. And that's just the beginning of the problems here.

The usually annoying Chan Bak-Cheung turns in a subtle performance (for him, anyway) as Ho Bee-Fat, a self-made "King of Gamblers" with three wives (played by Yuen Qiu, Pinky Cheung, and Monica Chan) and a string of successful mahjong parlors. He's seventy years of age, so he should be passing on sometime soon. Unfortunately, his successors all blow - his three wives and their children (played by Timmy Hung, Chan Kwok-Kwan and Deng Ziyi) are mostly moneygrubbers who want Ho's entire fortune via his as-yet-unspecified will. The first half of the film is antics and more antics, as everyone spars incessantly, with the unfortunate victim usually being Ho Bee-Fat himself. Aside from generally talking behind his back, his annoying family also poisons his soup, leading to some scatological humor and the awful mental image of Chan Bak-Cheung spending about six hours in a bathroom.

Ho Bee-Fat decides to escape his crappy life by going in search of his first love. Instead, he finds yet another potential freeloader: long-lost grandson Fai, played by TVB star Bosco Wong. The other relatives aren't thrilled with Fai's appearance, as this means less potential inheritance money. To get rid of him, they first try to pay him off, and then attempt to drive him from the house using tricks like itching powder, epoxy, and finally an aphrodisiac to induce him to attempt rape on his own cousin. The above sounds like silly, crazy, and possibly funny stuff - but of those adjectives, only "silly" really applies. Despite going for shtick, the film lacks energy, and only possesses the occasional inspired joke. Fun stuff includes the introduction of "foot mahjong", where people cheat by kicking tiles under the table to one another. Also, the film has a few amusing gags that break the fourth wall, plus Chan Bak-Cheung actually manages to rein it in this time. If anything, this is a landmark film because Chan Bak-Cheung is not the worst thing in it.

Sadly, the last statement also means there are far worse things than Chan Bak-Cheung in this film. First of all, the film barely possesses any actual mahjong. Bosco Wong is annoying in the lead role, going for lots of silly mugging in lieu of actual acting, and his co-stars aren't much better, proving to be either completely awful or simply not worth mentioning. The production is also rather cheap, with noticeable grain whenever the filmmakers attempt a visual effect. The ear-splitting icing on this crappy cinema cake is the terrible music score, which is loud, intrusive, and performed by Casio. Lam Chi-Chung previously directed I'll Call You, which was a decent, if not special attempt at a youth romance drama. Sadly, whatever promise he showed is not in evidence here; The Luckiest Man manages some low-budget creativity, but generally the film is subdued and even boring. In lieu of big-name stars, a Lunar New Year film requires inspired, crazy comedy, and Luckiest Man simply does not deliver. Instead, we get long scenes of people talking, mugging, and even crying.

Yes, crying. Despite being generally crappy, The Luckiest Man engenders some good will because it's just a silly comedy and not some pretentious exercise in depth and meaning. At least, not until the film goes for its big message, which has to do with filial loyalty, the love of family, and probably the joy of handing out red pockets. Fine lessons all, but The Luckiest Man never earns the right to get syrupy on the audience. One would hope that Lam Chi-Chung threw in these lessons as some sort of tongue-in-cheek exercise in perfunctory closure, but neither the film nor the performers possess the irony to offset what appear to be sincere and rather nauseating emotions. With little to recommend The Luckiest Man, the best thing that can be said is that it's simply too minor and uninteresting to be worth hating. There are more important things to criticize, like China's censorship practices, the proliferation of movie downloading, or the latest Patrick Kong filim. The Luckiest Man isn't even worth that level of critical attention. (Kozo 2008)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image courtesy of My Way Films

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