Fat Choi Spirit- -
Andy is a legendary Mahjong player. Years ago Andy's passion for Mahjong cost his family their entire fortune, his brother Louis then turned against him. Thus now Louis suffers from economy downturn. Andy offers to take care of him and their aging mother. Meanwhile, Louis is being trapped by a job interview supervisor and her cons, Sean. Andy revenged Sean by beating him at the game table. Gigi, Andy's ex-flame, is increasing disappointment in Andy's rejection, she wishes he'll never win at the Mahjong table again. Oddly, Gigi's words come true....
With its mahjong theme the most ostensibly “new-yearsy” of this season’s holiday releases, FAT CHOI SPIRIT (“fat choi” being Cantonese for “get rich”, part of the traditional new year greeting) is surprisingly entertaining even for non-aficionados of the game.
The directing team of Johnny To and Wai Ka-fai have created their most enjoyable picture in years, an unpretentious, knockabout farce that somehow hangs together despite a piecemeal script that feels like it was composed on the set. Johnny To’s two favorite stars, Andy Lau and Lau Ching-wan, vie for the title of “mahjong warrior” in a familiar story involving characters who have nothing else in life but mahjong and make it the goal of their existence to be number one at the table. The theme has been done to death in Cantonese comedies, which makes FAT CHOI SPIRIT’s sparkle all the more unexpected. Louis Koo is also on hand as Andy’s non-gambling kid brother, a personage whose initial importance somehow gets lost as the movie progresses. Not so the object of Andy’s non-gambling affections, Gigi Leung. In a welcome departure from her “girl next door” image, Gigi plays a ditzy dame who will do almost anything to get her man. At various turns a stewardess, traffic cop, and tax assessor, she sports a variety of looks from silicone-enhanced buxom bimbo to mop-headed bureaucrat. Gigi seems to relish the chance to let loose, and the result is her best comedy performance to date. Lau Ching-wan, one of the most gifted actors on the Hong Kong screen, is given an unchallenging, screwball role that is handled with appropriate zaniness. Andy Lau has more screen time, and while his thespian genes aren’t duly exercised, he appears to enjoy very much displaying his screen idol charm. The fun is contagious, though the inevitable mah-jongg tournament finale will seem a tad long to those of us unversed in the game. The picture neatly concludes with a festive seaside mahjong coda that virtually guarantees audiences exit the theater so full of the “fat choi” spirit that they will hardly care the movie is less banquet than fast food snack.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival