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King of Beggars
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Stephen Chow demonstrates the "Sleeping Kung Fu" in King of Beggars
Director: Gordon Chan Car-Seung
Action: Yuen Cheung-Yan
Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Cheung Man, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, Lin Wei, Nat Chan Bak-Cheung, Ng Man-Tat, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Yuen King-Tan, Vindy Chan Wai-Yee, Peter Lai Bei-Tak, Wong Chung, Matthew Wong Hin-Mung
The Skinny: Entertaining costume picture that features a comparatively subdued Stephen Chow, as well as impressive production values and a well-developed, if not overly typical storyline. This isn't the best example of Chow's comedic charm, but it's a solid HK Cinema experience that's worth a look. Be sure to check out the "sleeping kung-fu".
by Kozo: Gordon Chan directed this entertaining kung-fu comedy that features heavy production values in place of the customary Stephen Chow shenanigans. Chow is the legendary Beggar So, who starts off as a spoiled would-be scholar. He may be a fine martial artist but his lackadaisical, superior attitude and shameful illiteracy make him a prime target for various nefarious evil-doers. Thanks to their efforts, as well as his own spoiled laziness, So receives a fitting fall from grace. He and his father (Ng Man-Tat) are sentenced to be beggars, and So sinks into self-pity.
Meanwhile, evil court magician Norman Tsui Siu-Keung plans a coup, and a resistance effort (led by Chow's usual leading lady Cheung Man) plots against him. They want So to be involved, but his pride won't allow it. It isn't until he learns the nifty "sleeping kung-fu" that he regains this self-confidence and can ascend to his rightful place as leader of the Beggar Clan. And there's comedy, too.
For fans of Stephen Chow's usual mo lei tau, King of Beggars may seem puzzling. The brief asides for wacky comedy seem almost extraneous, as director Gordan Chan is much more concerned with the kung-fu clichés that typify these sorts of costume pictures. The film moves a bit slower than the usual Stephen Chow escapades, and actually begins to resemble a western film in its three-act storyline and tried-but-true plot devices. The result may seem almost obligatory, but the film still manages to be quite entertaining and enjoyable, though in a more mundane way than you would expect from Stephen Chow.
Western audiences would likely cotton to this Stephen Chow film, as it's extremely accesible and devoid of the esoteric otherness that typifies his usual work (i.e. All for the Winner and the Royal Tramp films). Those who want a gradual introduction to HK's king of comedy would do well to start with this film. King of Beggars was also well loved in Hong Kong, earning HK Film Awards nominations for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Music. (Kozo 1995/1997)