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Kick'em In The Ghoulies

"It's The Only Way To Survive"

Hong Kong Classic Review

The Gambling Ghost - Sammo Hung -1991

Starring: Sammo Hung / Nina Li Chi 

 Directed By : Clifton Ko -  1991


Ahh….an unmitigated guilty joy and pleasure in the catalogue of all things Sammo Hung for many reasons. As well as our hero playing three parts, Grandfather, Father and central role of son, the movie revisits the supernatural theme in a contemporary setting with those cherished dashes of humour that make Sammo such an engaging lead man and protagonist.

The Gambling Ghost centres on hotel worker Hung (the Son) and co-worker and friend (Mang Hoi). Both are compulsive gamblers who continually come up with ill thought-out schemes and plots to make and extort money, and dream of hitting their jackpot so they never have to work in hotels again.

Son Hung lives at home with his Father, distinguishable from Son Hung with silver streaked hair, round glasses and conservative casual dress. His father is ashamed but fearful for his rascal of a son and implores him not to follow in the footsteps of his father, the murdered ‘Gambling King’ who bought shame to the family. Hung ignores all advice and continues his wasteful ways.

During one particularly devilish scheme conning a female fraudster out of her sideline stealing and selling cars, Son Hung and Hoi are ambushed by one of her victims.  Hoi is taken hostage and Hung faces a race to make the million it’ll take to free him. 


Dispirited and disillusioned, he steals a cab ride by pretending to be a ghost traveller and is chased by police into stormy grassland. Stumbling across the grave of his grandfather the Gambling King, Hung spits and curses at it. But when he reaches home and has a physical altercation with his disappointed father, the grandfather emerges from the spirit world to break them up, and promises to help Hung make the million if he helps track down the ones who murdered him.


The Gambling Ghost utilises split screens quite effectively, the man who doubles is also convincing as the solidly-built Hung. Varying levels of kung fu are also displayed well, Son Hung barely capable, grandfather equipped with the spirit world to help him fly and overtake bodies, and father extremely skilled – the lynchpin of the family and of the martial arts triumvirate.


Sammo graces each character with the right intensity they require - Son boisterous and overly-confident, Father tranquil respectable and watchful, and Grandfather mischievous but venerable. A screen featuring body possession sees Son take on a dockyard of heavies with the skills of Grandfather, flying and shooting back missile fire.


Sammo also takes on his real-life then protégée, Bobby Samuels, an Afro-American stunt player who lived with Hung and his family at that time. In his first screen outing Samuels proves a good opponent for the Son, and displays the awareness and skill that got him backing to enter the Hong Kong Stuntman association.


But the real skill comes from quiet Father, who rescues his Son from a serious beating with sharp moves, confident grace and an assured turn of speed. The beautiful female lead, Li Chi (wife of Jet Li), adds glamour and a strong self-assured performance to the cast.  Some scenes seem out of place, as though heavily cut, one such featuring a welcome cameo from Wu Ma as a jackpot chaser while Grandfather rigs the state lottery. Other cameos come from the late Lam Ching-Ying as a stubborn exorcist and Richard Ng (now Woo) as a traffic policeman.


Fight scenes aside, The Gambling Ghost is funny and nicely paced, each member of the family allowed time to develop and become distinguishable from the other, while choreography well thought out for each version of Sammo. Perhaps it does feel disjointed in areas, and Li Chi is underused, but it still satisfies those who’ve an appetite for all things Big Brother Big!

Jay Morey 

July 2010


Page update: November 2021


Sammo Hung

Martial Artist / Action Actor / Action Director / Director / Producer / One of the Seven Little Fortunes

World renowned Action star and Director. Pioneering director of action cinema and regarded as one of the greats worldwide. His raw gritty action scenes are based in reality compared to the likes of Yuen Woo Ping and many others. Sammo is the only Director that can make Jackie Chan look better on screen then Jackie Chan himself.

Nina Li-Chi

 Retired Actress

The Daughter of a stage actor, it was pretty much given Nina Li Chi would break into the spotlight. Her stunning looks won her the title of  Miss Asia Pacific Hong Kong in 1986.
That same year she would spread her wings in her first film role in the film The Seventh Curse which starred Chow Yun-Fat.

From here she starred in a string of movies with most of Hong Kongs leading box office draws including Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Conan Lee,  Leslie Cheung, Sam Hui and her husband Jet Li.

Nina Li Chi retired from acting and her last film role was in 1992.

Standout Roles
1988 - Tiger on the Beat as Marydonna
1988 - Aces Go Places V as Sister Thief
1989 - Pedicab Driver as Ping
1989 - Dragon Fight as Penny
1990 - The Fun, The Luck , and the Tycoon as Cindy Chan
1990 - Dragon From Russia as Chime
1991 - Gambling Ghost as Lily
1991 - Stone Age Warriors as Lucy Wong
1991 - A Chinese Ghost Story III as Butterfly
1991 - Kid from Tibet as Sorcerer's Sister
1992 - Twin Dragons as Tammy
1992 - Loves Tear as Fang Yi Ling
 

About our Reviewer

Jay Morey

Freelance writer / Sammo Hung Aficionado

 Jay Morey is a freelance writer living in London who also happens to be a Sammo Hung fanatic ,so when she is not watching our Sammo.She has her own columns which she writes about Music and Sport.As well as film reviews.

Satisfies those who’ve an appetite for all things Big Brother Big!

Jay Morey - Freelance Writer - Kick'em in the Ghoulies contributor

Credits

  • Sammo Hung - Fatty / Fatty's father / Hung Kau
  • Nina Li Chi - Lily
  • Mang Hoi - Hoi
  • James Wong - Brother Dragon
  • Yip Wing-Cho - Kau's Partner
  • Wu Ma - Taoist film extra
  • Corey Yuen - Gambler
  • Chung Fat - Driver
  • Stanley Fung - Motorcycle Cop
  • Lam Ching-Ying - Exorcist
  • Richard Ng - Roadblock Cop #1
  • Billy Ching Sau Yat - Roadlock #2
  • Billy Chow - Thug
  • Robert Samuels - thug
  • James Tien - Taoist
  • Paul Chun - Gambler
  • Yuet Yue Chan