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Fat Choi Spirit 
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Chinese: 嚦咕嚦咕新年財
Year: 2002
Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Gigi Leung Wing-Kei, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Wong Tin-Lam, Angela Tong Ying-Ying, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Quick, cheap Lunar New Year crap from Johnnie To and his usual crew. While amusing and sometimes clever, the film isn't anything more than an obvious commercial exercise. If you're into mahjong then the enjoyment factor will probably rise exponentially.
by Kozo:

Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai obviously have to pay the bills, and to achieve that they've given us their latest commercial flick: Fat Choi Spirit. A made to order Lunar New Year product, this fluffy escapade features big stars, genial comedy, and loads and loads of mahjong. That's right, this film is so overloaded with tile-clicking goodness that if you don't understand mahjong then you'll probably be completely lost. If not, the movie may still offer some charms lost to the mahjong-impaired.

Andy Lau stars as Tak-Wah, a "Mahjong Warrior" whose addiction to mahjong caused the eventual bankruptcy of his family. However, he managed to turn his game around when he was blessed by Wing-Kei (Gigi Leung). Wing-Kei is a sweet girl who'll do anything for Tak-Wah, to the detriment of anyone who gets in her way. Tak-Wah would like to marry her, but only if she cleans up her act, which is tough going.

Tak-Wah is reunited with his mom (Bonnie Wong) and brother Tin-Lok (Louis Koo) when Tin-Lok's Internet firm goes belly up. Tak-Wah lets them stay at his opulent mansion while he goes about his usual mahjong ways. However, Tin-Lok hates mahjong because it was the cause of their first bankruptcy, and swears not to be involved with it in any way. Then self-styled "Master of Mahjong" Ching-Wan (Lau Ching-Wan) shows up to swindle the two brothers, but Tak-Wahs' amazing mahjong powers seem to have left him.

Yep, it definitely sounds like Lunar New Year madness, and lazy Lunar New Year madness at that. Aside from leaning on overused mahjong hijinks, Wai Ka-Fai and the Milky Way writers have decided to christen each character with the exact same name as the actor playing them. The plot is haphazard and given to non-existent character development and abrupt resolution (i.e., the weak romance plot between Louis Koo and Cherrie Ying). Also, the acting is loose and without any real direction. The script is occasionally clever, but also typically nonsensical.

What's left to save the picture are the stars and Johnnie To's direction, which manages some measure of restraint. Andy Lau and Gigi Leung essentially carry the picture, as nearly every other actor is shunted aside for their primary romance plot. The chemistry is there, but whether or not any of this affects you depends entirely on how much you liked the actors before they ever appeared in the film. Fat Choi Spirit is the epitome of quick, cheap Hong Kong entertainment. It helps that above-average talent worked on the film, but it still doesn't mask the film's ultimate problem: it's crap.

This doesn't mean that the film is necessarily bad. It does its job for its target audience and never purports to be anything more than that. I guess my disappointment comes from the fact that Johnnie To directed this movie, and Andy Lau and Lau Ching-Wan starred in it. To expect them to come up with Running Out of Time redux is unfair because they clearly didn't intend that. They achieved everything they intended to, which means it's up to audiences to decide whether they like these types of movies or not. A great many people obviously do like these movies or they wouldn't even bother making them. In that case, Fat Choi Spirit is resounding success. However, that mentality is also what keeps Wong Jing in business, so sometimes it might be wise to draw the line somewhere. For me, I found Fat Choi Spirit occasionally amusing, and that's about it. (Kozo 2002)


9th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Recommended Film
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy Mei Ah Laserdisc Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen