Under appreciated as an actor in the west, Chow Yun Fat shows his incredible versatility as a performer in this Hong Kong comedy/drama.
Chow stars as Ko Chun a gifted gambler with an almost supernatural gift for gaming, hence his exalted title. Ko Chun is suave and sophisticated, master of his gaming, monetarily successful and confident in his abilities. This makes him enemies among not only opponents, but as it turns out, his allies.
Having narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, Ko Chun unwittingly walks into a trap set by Knife, a young gambler wannabe who hankers after a big score. Knife meant to teach someone else a lesson by sabotaging a trail near his home,instead, Ko Chun is the victim. Finding the head injured gambler, Knife and his family take him in and nurse him back to health, not realizing who has literally tumbled into their lives.
Ko Chun awakens from his trauma with no memory and regressed to a childlike demeanor. He's an appealing manchild with an insatiable hunger for a particular brand of chocolate (one carry-over from his former life), and as Knife and Co. find out, a talent for gambling. Knife and his crew make good use of their new friend's abilities--becoming upwardly mobile thanks to "Chocolate"--the nickname they bestow upon him, knowing no other.
Chow Yun Fat has never been more endearing and charming as the brain injured "Chocolate". Chow makes believable and incredibly touching this dramatic transformation from genius to idiot savant. Viewers may find themselves wishing to protect Chocolate from a world he no longer understands and which is by turns baffling and inhospitable. Knife and his crew come to love and protect their friend, mortgaging all they have to provide him with a surgery that might restore his sensibilities.
Their Chocolate-aided success brings unwanted attention, which leads to pursuit, kidnapping, ransom and gunplay. Further trauma to poor Chocolate follows which leads to a showdown that highlights the God of Gamblers uncanny ability to win, even when opponents cheat and "friends" betray. While Chow Yun Fat's impressive talent and charisma are at the heart and soul of this film, the supporting players are excellent, especially Andy Lau and Joey Wong.
A must see and a must own for any Chow Yun Fat fan! In DVD versions of this film the subtitle problems noted in other reviews can be overcome by using the zoom feature on the remote. By slightly shrinking the image and adjusting it upward on the screen, the English subtitles will be perfectly visible and readable 99% of the time. Note:The DVD version of the film is edited, with several original scenes cut that track the ascendency of Knife and Co., and one pretty major plot point that would clarify the denouement at the film's end. VCD versions which are unedited can be sometimes found, but the subtitle problem reasserts itself--VCDs cannot be adjusted to compensate for the problem. But for anyone who has seen the DVD and has the general plot and dialogue down, the search for the unedited VCD version is worthwhile.