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  Winners and Sinners Taken To The Cleaners
Year: 1983
Director: Sammo Hung
Stars: Sammo Hung, John Sham, Richard Ng, Charlie Chin, Stanley Sui-Fan Fung, Cherie Chung, Jackie Chan, James Tien, Philip Chan, Paul Chang Chung, Pat Ha, Lam Ching-Ying, Tai Bo, Cecilia Yip, John Cheung, Fung Hark-On, Chung Fat, Dick Wei, Chan Lung, Yuen Biao
Genre: Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The Hong Kong Police Department have been working overtime recently as the criminals are practically lining up to be arrested. Take Teapot (Sammo Hung), a would-be cat burglar who is more of a bungler: his modus operandi is to use a zip wire to escape with his ill-gotten gains, but tonight he made the mistake of trying to rob a house that was waiting for a celebrity guest to celebrate his birthday in a surprise party, and in his panic to get away he wound up flying straight into the back of a police van. Now he is in prison, where he meets four other ne'erdowells, a petty watch thief, a fake rabble rouser, a car parts robber, and they strike up a friendship - how about they turn law-abiding once they are released?

What could go wrong that has not before? Quite a bit, in a movie that was overseen by Sammo Hung purely as an exercise in making the audience laugh and forget their troubles, but in effect saw him begin to hone his talents and those of his contemporaries and friends in a vehicle that was such a big hit in Asia that it spawned a selection of sequels. All of these were much in the same vein, combining the anticipated martial arts with a star in every role and lots and lots of slapstick comedy and verbal sparring and punning, though naturally that last was lost in translation when these efforts were exported to the West, which meant they did not enjoy the same high standing as certain other Hong Kong productions, comedy or otherwise.

However, these were such successes at home that they began to be reassessed, and while you would struggle to find someone who preferred Winners and Sinners and the Lucky Stars series to say, Jackie Chan's Police Story franchise, they did have merits of their own. For a start, they were often very funny, and if there was one thing this generation of martial arts stars liked to be it was funny so as to show off the full range of their extensive training in acting and indeed, action. Chan, you may often hear as a complaint of this series, was not really the lead, as it was Hung's brainchild and he tended to get the most to do (he also gets the girl in this debut entry), but what he was given to perform here was nevertheless impressive. Their old pal Yuen Biao, not yet a lead in his own right, was also offered one of the cameos, and he helped out with the action sequences.

Both would return as the series progressed, and Hung was wise to surround himself with top Hong Kong comedy exponents to ensure the audience were in no doubt this nonsense was geared to make them laugh long and loud. The plot saw the ex-cons start their own cleaning services, but after some mix up or other they accidentally find themselves in possession of a briefcase full of counterfeit dollars and a set of printing plates to make more, and a local gangster boss (visually patterned after Marlon Brando in The Godfather) will resort to violent means to get them back. But that storyline barely mattered when the team appeared to be throwing anything they could at the wall to see if it stuck, leaving the experience akin to watching a collection of comedy sketches with occasional outbreaks of combat, plus an extended sequence with Jackie Chan (playing a cop) on rollerskates, negotiating the traffic in impressive technique. It was all frequently ridiculous, yet contained a cartoonish quality that was very appealing, even if not every gag landed as it should have. The fans did not mind in the eighties, and most likely neither will you. Music by Chris Babida and Frankie Chan (catchy theme tune!).

[Eureka release Winners and Sinners, My Lucky Stars and Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars in a 3-disc Blu-ray set with these special features:

O-Card Slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling (First print run of 2000 copies will feature a Limited-Edition unique variant) | All three films presented in 1080p on Blu-ray from brand new restorations | Winners and Sinners - new 4K restoration! | My Lucky Stars - new 2K restoration! | Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars - new 4K restoration, plus the alternate extended Taiwanese version also fully restored in 4K! | Cantonese audio tracks (original mono presentations) | Optional English dubbed audio tracks for all films | Newly translated English subtitles | Brand new feature length audio commentaries on all three films by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) | Winners and Sinners - Archival interview with director and star Sammo Hung (6 mins) | Winners and Sinners - Archival interview with director and star Sammo Hung (13 mins) | Winners and Sinners - Sammo Hung retrospective featuring interviews with friends of the legendary director, actor, and action choreographer (20 mins) | My Lucky Stars - Archival interview with Michiko Nishiwaki (20 mins) | My Lucky Stars - Archival interview with Sammo Hung (18 mins) | Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars - Archival interview with Richard Norton (33 mins) | Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars - Archival interview with Richard Ng (21 mins) | Behind-the-scenes featurettes on all three films originally produced for their Japanese releases | Outtakes, NG ("No Good!") shots for all three films | Trailers for all three films | Limited-Edition Collector's Booklet featuring new writing by James Oliver (First Print Run of 2000 Copies Only).]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Sammo Hung  (1952 - )

Hong Kong born actor, producer and director and one of the best known figures in Hong Kong cinema. Hung's large frame belies a formidable martial arts ability, and he's best known for his collaborations with Jackie Chan during the 1980s and more recently for his US TV show Martial Law.

Hung's acting career began at the age of 12 but it was Enter the Dragon that gave him his first high profile role. He starred in a continuous stream of kung fu movies throughout the seventies, and made his directing debut in 1977 with Iron-Fisted Monk. A series of now-classic martial arts comedies followed, all directed by and starring Sammo - Warriors Two, Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Prodigal Son, My Lucky Stars, Pedicab Driver. But his best loved pictures are those in which he appeared alongside Jackie Chan, including Project A, Wheels on Meals, Dragons Forever and My Lucky Stars.

 
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