anyone else think that Wong Jing uses Mad Libs to
write his scripts? Hong Kong's leading schlockmeister
recycles big time for his latest cinematic regurgitation,
Kung Fu Mahjong. The film's title and elder
stars (Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu) are an obvious nod to
some little film called Kung Fu Hustle, but
Wong Jing does more than borrow from Stephen Chow's
leftovers. Wong also calls upon TVB star Roger Kwok
to parody his own performance from the TVB drama Square
Pegs, and the whole concept of Kung Fu Mahjong
is lifted from every other gambling film ever made.
Originality, thy name is not Kung Fu Mahjong.
Yuen Wah is Chi Mo-Sai,
a professional gambler who's more adept at getting
his butt kicked than actually cleaning up at the tables.
But Mo-Sai finds his golden goose in Ah Wong (Roger
Kwok), a waiter at a local diner whose ability to
hear and repeat complex food orders is Rainman-like
in its exactness. Bingo, Mo-Sai has found his guy
to go gambling with, but there are obstacles. The
main problem is Auntie Fei, Ah Wong's boss and keeper,
who doesn't want Ah Wong to become a gambler because,
essentially, "gambling is bad." No one really
wants to argue with Auntie Fei, because A) she can
beat up bunches of thugs with her feet while carrying
a mahjong table, and B) she's played by Yuen Qiu,
who sports a dangling cigarette out of the corner
of her mouth AND administers beatings on Yuen Wah
as if she were still in Kung Fu Hustle. Wong
Jing knows: if you must copy, copy from the best.
Ah Wong, however, doesn't
heed Auntie Fei's advice, and joins Mo Sai for some
gambling action. Predictably, his beautiful mind works
wonders at the tables, leading to the admiration of
gambling queen Phoenix (Jay Leung, making a rare non-DV
appearance), plus the ire of #1 gambler Tin Kau Gor
(Wong Jing). Mo-Sai also helps Ah Wong get in with
the pretty Cheryl (Theresa Fu of Cookies) using classic
"Chasing Girls" techniques, i.e. he uses
chicanery to pretend to be someone he's not. Like
all Wong Jing heroines, Cheryl sees through his crap
immediately, but she's still charmed and chooses to
date the lying fool. Cinema purists take note: Wong
Jing has just stolen from himself. He also steals
from himself when Ah Wong gets smacked in the head,
and goes all mental like Ko Chun from the God of
Gamblers films. Ah Wong is reduced to an idiot,
Mo-Sai gets beaten up some more, and the stage is
set for a rousing "I will get back what I lost"
finale, which can also be seen in God of Gamblers,
A Better Tomorrow, and the story of that guy
who just had his wallet stolen. Again, there's nothing
Not that it matters.
If Wong Jing has a motto, it's quick, fast, and uncomplicated.
Kung Fu Mahjong delivers all of that in spades,
though it errs on the uncomplicated part by being
about mahjong, which anyone can tell you is pretty
damn complex. Wong and co-director Billy Chung dig
deep into the mahjong playbook, and introduce us to
obscure winning hands and gameplay strategy, some
of it fake, but most of it oddly entertaining. If
you like mahjong - and cinematic matches totally get
you off - then Kung Fu Mahjong can be fun stuff.
With numerous amusing variations on display (blind
mahjong, Taiwan mahjong, and probably Swedish mahjong),
mahjong fans will get their fix here, though the abundance
of onscreen mahjong makes the film about twenty minutes
longer than it should be. Add that to the usual Wong
Jing time-filling (movie parodies, uneven and ill-timed
gags, pathos that gets forgotten ten minutes later,
amusing but also obligatory action sequences), and
you have the epitome of fast-food Hong Kong Cinema.
Kung Fu Mahjong: it's cheap, mildly appetizing,
and ultimately bad for you.
Still, as is common
with Wong Jing, that's all he set out to do: deliver
the cinema equivalent of a Happy Meal, only without
a free toy included. If one were to measure a film's
success by relative expectations then Kung Fu Mahjong
is much more successful than either Divergence
or The Eye 10. This doesn't mean it's a better
film per se, but those who check out Kung Fu Mahjong
and expect Kung Fu Hustle had better get some
education damn quick; this is cheap, rather lame stuff
for undemanding audiences and it's ultimately review-proof.
Are you a fan of Roger Kwok and his work on Square
Pegs? This is for you. Liked the sight of Yuen
Qiu beating the crap out of Yuen Wah in Kung Fu
Hustle? This is for you. Like recycled Chasing
Girls gags and mahjong action aplenty? This is
for you. Like Theresa Fu of Cookies? Well...given
her screen time, this may not be for you, but hey,
at least she's in the film. Wong Jing can't score
on all accounts, but he seems to be batting close
to .750. In Major League Baseball, that's enough to
win you an MVP award.
So once again, reviewing
this movie is probably not possible. Yes, it's bad
cinema, but it accomplishes what it intends efficiently
enough to earn the classification "Not the worst
movie you'll ever see." It's also not the best
movie you'll ever see, but again, if that's what you
were looking for then you should start looking for
more realistic goals, like proof that Michael Jackson
is a normal, well-adjusted human being. If you have
it in you to see Kung Fu Mahjong, then it does
what it should, and that's pretty much about it. This
is empty, sloppy moviemaking but nothing is truly
unforgivable - EXCEPT perhaps one moment. Wong Jing
puts Yuen Qiu into Uma Thurman's Kill Bill
togs for yet another The Bride vs. Gogo Yubari knockoff
scene that should induce more groans than laughs.
This is a gag that's uncreative and lame in its retread
status...hell, if they did it in Where's Mama's
Boy, then it should be avoided at all costs. Too
late, Wong Jing did it, which once again proves that
the man loves movies and loves ripping them off. Both
his loves are present and accounted for in Kung
Fu Mahjong - which means that from an auteur theory
standpoint, Kung Fu Mahjong is really a love
story, and even a successful one.
Okay, now I'm really reaching.