★★★★ - STUFF
- An 80-year-old takes on the triads. What's not to love? -
She’s played a Bond girl twice, spent three years on Grey’s Anatomy and provided vocal performances for everything from The Bridge Over the River Kwai to last year’s Abominable.
That veteran actor Tsai Chin is not a household name is already lamentable, but if this riotous action comedy doesn’t do it – then it’s criminal.
In writer-director Sasie Sealy’s sassy feature debut, the 86-year-old Shanghai-born star (whose credits also include Memoirs of a Geisha, The Joy Luck Cluband Now You See Me 2) plays Grandma Wong, a fiercely independent New York octogenarian.
After a fortune-teller predicts that an auspicious day is on its way (October 28, if you desperately needed to know), Grandma decides that the only thing to do is cash in on it. Extracting her entire savings from the local bank (less than $2000), she boards a bus bound for the casino.
When an initial spin on the roulette wheel goes her way, she decides it’s time to up the stakes. Pretty soon, she’s cleaning up at craps, dominating dominos and psyching out her blackjack opponents. Then, when the old man next to her can’t handle the pace and expires, Grandma finds herself with a duffel bag full of money seemingly without an owner. But, as she returns from a shopping spree through Chinatown, Grandma finds some unexpected visitors in her house – and they are not happy. Local triads believe the money is theirs – and they want it back.
However, rather than simply give in, Grandma decides her best course of action is to hire some protection.
Filled with double crosses, quirky characters and laugh-out-loud scenarios, Lucky Grandma (which I first saw, perhaps appropriately enough, at last December’s Macau International Film Festival) is one of 2020’s unexpected delights (which have been few and far between).
As well as keeping the action coming thick and fast, Sealy and co-writer Angela Cheng also take the time to establish characters and provide a platform for the multi-talented Chin to showcase her wares. Whether it’s disarming a thug by claiming she knows his “aunty” or watching romance movies with her much younger bodyguard, Grandma Wong has a luminous quality that makes her a real crowdpleaser.
Allegedly inspired by the works of Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite, The Host), Sealy’s film might not quite reach the heights of the South Korean Oscar-winner, but it sure is an entertaining first effort.
In English and Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles.
- James Croot, STUFF
Lucky Grandma is now playing at Light House Petone and Cuba!