Country: Hong Kong
Genre: Action/ Drama
Director: Joe Cheung
TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE
Bet On Fire is another variation on that old saw, at least in Hong Kong films: the girl who ends up working at a hostess bar after family troubles put them in hock.
Lack of originality is not an issue in these films. What’s important are the details. How did the family get into this situation? Are the disasters interesting and fun? Once the girl is in the hostess bar, are the situations presented with flair and gusto? Are the performances juicy and full of life? Are the women gorgeous? Is the cinematography and direction vivid and energetic? Are there plenty of kickass martial arts informed sequences and stunts to up the ante?
In the case of Bet On Fire, the answer is inconsistent, but overall, a solid yes.
The characters are pretty stock, but the actors flesh them out beautifully. As Mandy the dutiful daughter, Sharla Cheung Man is lovely, sweet, courageous and dewy. You don’t want anything bad to happen to her. Her father in the film, played by the great Shing Fu-On, is a riot. As usual, Shing Fu-On plays a guy who has no filter and exhibits more guts and loyalty than brains. Cherie Chung embues the tough as nails prostitute that takes Mandy under her wing with her trademark soulfulness. And the bad guys match them beat for beat. Lam Chung, Paul Chun, and Wong Jing; these guys can sneer maliciously with the best of them.
The film starts out with a bang. Shing Fu-On participates in a fun lead pipe battle, but the filmmakers save the best for last, as is often the case in Hong Kong movies. There is an extended battle that is a model for how such sequences should be structured and executed, full of martial arts informed fighting, hard edged violence, and killer stunts, all courtesy of action coordinator Stephen Tung Wai.
But is Bet On Fire perfect? Not really. The incidents in the second act sustain interest, but not much more than that. The filmmakers save the fireworks for the end. The actors do their job, but screenwriter Manfred Wong and director Joe Cheung could have created more urgency so that the audience could be more fully involved in the fates of our heroes.
But there is that gangbusters ending, which leaves the audience on a contact high. Warmly recommended.
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