Year of release: 1998
Director: Billy Tang
Action director: Ma Yuk Shang
Stars: Simon Yam, Alex Fong, Kent Cheng, Ada Choi, Kenix Kwok, Ben Ng
Rated III for violence and language
Version reviewed: Mei Ah DVD
Like Danny Lee for cop movies, Simon Yam is perhaps the ultimate Hong Kong crime movie star. He looks the part -- suave but tough -- and his acting skills make even the sleaziest dai lo seem sympathetic, and he's certainly been in some of the classics of the genre. Unfortunately, Casino isn't one of them. It's a good Triad movie, but it's nothing you haven't seen many times over, both from the US and HK.
The plot (which is based on real events and was funded by gangsters, even though there's a big disclaimer at the end of the film) has Simon and his friend Alex Fong as two upstarts in the Macau gambling scene. They're tired of being small potatoes, and after enlisting the help of a dirty cop (Kent Cheng), they manage to topple their boss and seem poised to take over all of Macau until a new rival (Ben Ng) rears his head. As his power grows, Simon must also deal with his estranged wife and a deadly illness that threatens to take his friend's life.
Most of the story is told in flashback as Simon and his associates are being interviewed by a reporter played by Kenix Kwok. This results in overuse of the tired "talking into the camera" device, which really started to annoy me after a while. Besides that, the story is just old hat. Director "Bloody" Billy Tang (the guy behind such sleaze classics such as Red to Kill) tries to liven things up with lots of Triad battles, but there's nothing behind them. It's just violence for the sake of violence, and that's boring. Besides, it's not even that bloody -- I suspect the Category III rating came more for Triad references (it's a big no-no in HK movies to refer to specific gangsters or gangs) rather than brawls.
It's kind of a shame that Casino didn't turn out better than it did. The movie has a solid cast, a talented director, and a fairly large budget (especially in this day and age of straight-to-video quickies). But the script is totally by-the-numbers, and holds little interest for the viewer. This isn't a bad film by any means, but Hong Kong has certainly turned out many other crime movies which are more deserving of your time than this one.
Back to Movie Review index