There’s something about gambling that makes it irresistible to film makers. It might be the tension it generates or it could be the way that it tells us something about the characters and the way that they play. Plus, while there are plenty of Hollywood movies that feature gambling prominently it’s also a favourite plot device in Asian cinema – as this list of the best gambling movies demonstrates.
From Vegas to Macau (2014)
Also known as The Man from Macau, this 2014 film was a big hit at the box office earning nearly $96 million worldwide and spawning no less than two sequels. It stars Chow Yun Fat and Nicholas Tse in a battle to bring down a gambling mastermind Mr Ko. It’s a film full of thrilling gambling and martial arts action and in one of the most memorable scenes the character played by Chow Yun Fat, Ken, flicks cards with deadly accuracy like ninja stars eventually overcoming the evil enemy.
Though more Hollywood than Asian, the highest ever grossing James Bond movie, and Daniel Craig’s third outing in the role, sees a lot of the action taking place in Macau. Bond has travelled to Shanghai on the trail of a killer called Patrice. When he corners him at the top of one of city’s skyscrapers they fight, Patrice dies and Bond finds a chip that leads him to a Macau casino. When he travels there, however, he finds there’s little time for gambling as he is attacked by bodyguards. A fight ensues which Bond, naturally, wins and the bodyguards left at the mercy of the casino’s komodo dragons . . .
The Conman (1998)
The 1998 action comedy from director Wong Jing and starring Andy Lau, Athena Chu and Nick Cheung may well have taken its inspiration from the 1973 film The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Where The Sting involved a horse racing scam, in The Conman it’s football and, more specifically the World Cup final between Brazil and France. In the complex plot they film false footage of Brazil winning the game by 3 goals to 2 when, in fact, France have won 3-0. When this deception’s revealed it’s so shocking that the film’s villain, Macau Mon, has a heart attack and dies.
No Risk, No Gain (1990)
The second instalment of the Casino Raiders story sees characters played by Andy Lau and Alan Tam and directed by Jimmy Heung take part in a complex tale of double crossing and stolen identities. At the heart of the film is a tense tournament in a plush Macau casino in which Andy Lau’s character, Big Dee, defies all the odds to come out on top again, beating both the casino and his sworn enemies in the process.
Of course there are hundreds more films from Asian cinema that contain the heady combination of martial arts and gambling which offer all action, breathless fun. And the fact that so many of them go on to have three or more sequels surely proves just how popular they are.
So next time you want some no-holds barred fun that’s packed with thrills you’ll know just where to find it!