E. A Solinas | MD USA | 03/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Stephen Chow usually plays a lovable martial-artist in these sorts of comic action movies. But he breaks from type in "Tricky Master," a manic gambling comedy where a naive cop decides to go out for revenge against an evil swindler. The plot is all over the place, but it manages to pull itself together by the grand finale.
Leung Foon (Nick Cheung) is a successful undercover cop (he's been doctors, lawyers, students, and even "that scary old lady Elizabeth Taylor"), but he really doesn't like his job. Finally he has a chance to advance: go undercover to expose the swindler Ferrarri (Jing Wong), but he doesn't realize that Ferrarri's lethal femme fatale is ahead of him -- and he ends up humiliated on TV.
Disgraced and taken off the case, Leung wants revenge. His very forgiving girlfriend Pizza (Suki Kwan) takes him to her brother-in-law, Wong Si Fu (Stephen Chow) -- the most magnificent swindler in the world. Wong Si Fu is reluctant at first, but after his apartment is torched, he agrees to win against Ferrarri...
People expecting another "Shaolin Soccer" are going to be disappointed -- Chow only kung-fus in a couple of scenes, and he plays a wily, dishonest sort of guy. So expect it to be what it is -- goofy, a bit gross, and memorable for its unabashedly over-the-top attitude. It's a lot like Leung, actually.
The biggest problem is that the plot is a bit schizophrenic -- it veers from gambler mansions to prisons to Leung doing a goofy pole dance on broadcast TV. Half the time, we're not even sure who to root for. But in the final quarter, when Wong Si Fu is captured, viewers will finally figure out who to root for and what is going on exactly.
And the humour is not Shakespearean, but it is amusing in fits -- Cheung suffers time-outs, embarrassing tattoos, and repeated thrashings. There are also some funny pop culture jokes, such as an entertaining "Ringu" gag which predates "Scary Movie 3" by four years. The sight of Cheung in a nightgown and wig is something you won't forget in a hurry.
Though Cheung is the hero of this story, Chow is the one who dominates the proceedings -- he's cynically funny, untrickable, and can kick butt if swindling doesn't work. He even swindles his kids. But Cheung and Kwan are both quite nice in their roles, as is Sandra Ng Kwan Yue as Chow's frustrated wife.
"Tricky Master" takes awhile to figure out where it's going, but the destination is a pretty entertaining one. Flawed but funny."