Winners and Sinners
(Wu fu xing) (1983)
Directed by Sammo Hung

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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Five men released from prison start a cleaning business together, but, unfortunately, they also accidentally become involved in a botched transaction between two gangsters.

What the people of one culture or one age find humorous is often not funny to the people of another culture or age, as Winners and Sinners clearly demonstrates. The movie includes a number of comedic elements common to many Hong Kong films, and, as these elements are frequently encountered in such films, it is safe to assume that they must appeal to audiences there. I, however, despite laughing at a few of the movie's routines, found most of its efforts at humor to be generally dull and sometimes cloying, stupid, or even cruel.

Because so many of the loosely connected episodes which constitute the better part of Winners and Sinners are essentially comedy sketches, and these are not themselves equally enjoyable, the movie, as a whole, is extremely uneven. Luckily, some of its skits are genuinely entertaining. The most amusing of these routines, for example, revolves around the mistaken belief of one of the characters that he has learned how to make himself invisible. He wanders naked through the house he shares with his friends attempting to play pranks on them, although it is actually he who is the victim of a prank they are playing. One of the action sequences towards the end of the film is also genuinely enjoyable. It includes a number of outrageously exaggerated and almost hilarious parodies of the conventions of Hong Kong kung fu movies. Unfortunately, most of the remaining episodes are less interesting. One, in which Jackie Chan kills a turtle, is extremely distasteful. Another, in which the friends are shown working and bonding to the accompaniment of music, is excessively sugary. The majority, however, are just dull.

The movie is, sadly, filled with flaws. Even Jackie Chan's appearances are distracting. His character is completely tangential to the rest of the film and appears to have been included for the sole purpose of attaching Chan's name to the movie.

While Winners and Sinners does have a few humorous scenes, it is neither clever nor well crafted.

Review by Keith Allen

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