One of the great things about streaming technology is that it now provides us with increased
access to the whole of cinematic history from across the world. And world cinema has
certainly produced some seriously niche genres ranging from Korean horror movies to the
Mexican rumberas films.
But it’s Chinese gambling movies that seem to deliver a particularly idiosyncratic insight into
a nation that’s obsessed with luck and slot machines. So here’s an overview of how Chinese
gambling movies have become an entire genre.
Although China has had a long fascination with luck, it wasn’t until the legendary Hong Kong
film-maker Wong Jing released God of Gamblers in 1989 that the gambling movie became a
huge fad in Chinese film-making.
The movie helped launched the careers of the likes of Chow Yun-fat and featured an
intoxicating blend of comedy and drama as it followed its protagonist through a series of
high-stakes games of poker and mahjong.
God of Gamblers became an overnight success and was, for a long time, the highest
grossing movie in Hong Kong’s history. As well as launching a string of sequels, the movie
paved the way for other successful gambling movies from the region, including All For The
Winner, Casino Raiders and Casino Tycoon.
Given that the genre rose to fruition shortly after the rise of Macau as the world’s number one
gambling destination, it’s no surprise to find that Chinese gambling movies have provided the
public with an endless amount of fascination.
However, with Macau facing increased pressure from online gaming sites such as Betway
who provide a range of table games and slot machines that can all be easily accessed from a
mobile device, it’s worth noting that the Chinese gambling genre has also had to diversify its
output a little.
As a result, the first decade of the 2000s saw some cinematic titles as unlikely as Kung Fu
Mahjong striking the Chinese multiplexes. This, when coupled with the hard economic
recession that struck the Hong Kong film industry last decade, meant that for a time, it
seemed that we had seen the last of the Chinese gambling movie.
But with Wong Jing recently returning in 2014 to deliver the acclaimed title, From Vegas To
Macau, it signifies that there is still a healthy public demand for this surprisingly entertaining
genre that can deliver all of the excitement and fascination of an exhilarating game of slots.