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My Wife is a Gambling Maestro
My Wife is a Gambling Maestro     My Wife is a Gambling Maestro

(left) Samuel Pang, Natalie Meng, and Xing Yu, and (right) Natalie Meng and Nick Cheung,
Chinese: 我老婆係賭聖  
Year: 2008
Director: Wong Jing
Producer: Wong Jing
Writer: Two Fat Men
Cast: Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Natalie Meng Yao, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Wong Jing, Samuel Pang King-Chi, Cheung Tat-Ming, Winnie Leung Man-Yi, Cheung Ka-Lun, Xing Yu, Lee Lik-Chee, Yedda Chao, Parkman Wong Pak-Man, Jacqueline Chong Si-Man
The Skinny: You get what you expect - which isn't much, but if you paid to see this film then you have no one to blame but yourself. Alternately, you could still enjoy My Wife is a Gambling Maestro, but then true quality entertainment was probably never your goal. Everything in life is relative.
by Kozo:

Wong Jing returns to the well for My Wife is a Gambling Maestro, the latest attempt by the Jingster to recapture that gambling movie magic of old. However, these are not the old days, meaning there's no Chow Yun-Fat, Stephen Chow, or Andy Lau to plug into the starring role. Instead, Wong recruits Nick Cheung, a once hoped-for candidate for gambling film superstardom, plus Natalie Meng Yao, who's best known for displaying her fleshy frame in the 2007 stinker Beauty and the Seven Beasts. Wong also has a much smaller budget here, as the days of sloppy, but visually grand Hong Kong movies have become impossible to recapture thanks to the shrinking film market. The result: a cheapo knock-off of the God of Gamblers formula with amped-down production values and a cast of only B or even C-quality stars. On the plus side, there one decent fight scene set in a woman's bathroom(!) involving Xing Yu (Coolie from Kung Fu Hustle). And, at least the film isn't insulting. It's just amusing in a mind-numblingly average way.

Natalie Meng is Ying-Ying, sister to gambling stud Tin Kau (Wong Jing) and an ace at cards, mahjong, and using the above gambling objects as throwing weapons. With the next Asian God of Gamblers competition around the corner, evil bastard Manu (Chan Kwok-Kwan) plots against Ying-Ying in order to take the title for himself. Thanks to his machinations, Ying-Ying is ambushed and left for dead, but she's found washed up on the beach by loser debt collector Jay Chou (Nick Cheung, playing a character with the same name as some Taiwan singer). Jay is henpecked by his third-rate actress girlfriend (Yedda Chao), so he gladly trades her in for the buxom, sweet Ying-Ying. Unfortunately, Ying-Ying has lost her memory, so she doesn't remember that she's due to compete in a gambling competition. Since she doesn't remember her name, Jay names her Na-Na (after old school sex bomb Dik Na, though the English subtitles call her "Pamela", after medically-made sex bomb Pamela Anderson), and promptly goes about trying to seduce her. However, his attempts result in some swift beatings from Na-Na, who's physically conditioned to assault guys who try to kiss her. Or something.

Actually, it's hard to report all the ins and outs of My Wife is a Gambling Maestro because they're A) illogical, and B) uninteresting. While not achieving a new level for cinematic sloppiness, Gambling Maestro is pretty damn uninspiring, possessing boring banter, cheap production design, and a story that would only be original if it were 1965. Times are tough for Hong Kong Cinema, so crappy production values are a given, though it's sad just how far everything has fallen. Jay and his buddies (Cheung Ka-Lun and Cheung Tat-Ming) work in an obviously empty office, and mahjong tournaments that used to take place on hotels or cruise liners now take place in somebody's living room. Jay's apartment is rather posh for someone of his low income, but it's obvious that the place probably belongs to a member of the film crew. Only minor CG jazzes up the card tricks, and the cast is small and populated by no-names. Even scenes in public areas are largely empty; one wonders if Wong Jing can even get extras for his films anymore. At least the previous extras got to see Andy Lau or Chow Yun-Fat in person. Now they can only see Nick Cheung and Natalie Meng, a step down if ever there was one.

The acting is a mixed bag. Wong Jing is surprisingly serious in his limited supporting role, and easily out acts his latest "It" girl, the cute but not exceptionally attractive Natalie Meng. She's probably a lovely girl in real life, but Meng is not much of an actress, and Nick Cheung isn't Stephen Chow, either. However, we know that already, after those years of aborted attempts to make Cheung the next comedy superstar. He's a game performer and willing to put up with lots of embarrassment, but Cheung has been at this type of role for nearly ten years, and the wear is starting to show. Cheung still can act, and indeed, his supporting roles in Exodus and Election were high points in those films. But with this movie as proof, he's not much of a lead anymore, especially since he's the second banana. Top banana? None other than Natalie Meng. Hong Kong Cinema certainly has taken a turn for the worse.

My Wife is a Gambling Maestro clocks in at 98 minutes - an eternity considering the sloppy screenplay and characters. The film could have used some extra craziness; the laughs occur regularly, but are so benign that even remembering the jokes is not easy. Stuff like this used to be fun partly because big stars were the ones acting wacky, and usually did so with self-effacing gusto. Nick Cheung delivers the self-effacing gusto, but he's not a star on the level of Andy Lau or Chow Yun-Fat, so it's hard to get that excited about watching him act like a loon. That goes double for Natalie Meng; as Wong Jing discoveries go, she's not in the top tier. Hell, Wong Jing's former fave starlet Chingmy Yau wasn't even an effective lead half the time - and if Yau couldn't always carry her films, how can Meng? This film does deliver what one expects from a Wong Jing film, but as that expectation is already low, the resulting satisfaction isn't really worth talking about. This is a lousy movie but a decent time-killer, and probably passable fun for the people who look forward to movies like this. I actually know a few of those people, and honestly, I don't believe they were disappointed in My Wife is a Gambling Maestro. I sometimes I wish I could be more like them. (Kozo 2008)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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