A mahjong player will have full empathy, but a player of any game requiring a combination of luck and skill will also recognize the feeling: When you get a lousy hand, you play on, fairly, attentively, with full respect to the game. This is called sportsmanship, in any language. This is what this movie is about.
Extending this, sportsmanship in the larger game of life is just as important. We all hope for our ship to come in but before that happens, a good sportsman will carry on cheerfully even when nothing seems right. This is what this movie is about.
If this is preaching, it is preaching in a most entertaining manner. Andy Lau is hero as ever, but hero of a different kind, a perfect sportsman, and very convincingly so. Gigi Leung continues her exploration for variety in roles since Xin Dong (Tempting Heart) and hits a roaring success here, proving that she can do two things: be very funny and play a foul-tempered eccentric. Lau Ching-Wan's wicked attempt at a spoilt brat is deliciously hilarious. Even the supports of the not-yet-too-hot Louis Koo and new screen face Cherrie Ying are impressive.
Altogether a wonderful movie, but a veteran mahjong player will be the one who gets the most out of it.
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