review by Jerome

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Stephen Chow the Beggar…
The Cantonese title “Mo Jong Yuen So Hat Yee” translates as the number one scholar of martial arts, Beggar So. Beggar So was also one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, famous folk heroes who stood up to cruelty.

The story goes like this: Beggar So’s (Stephen Chow) real name was So Chaat Ha Yee Chaan. He was born a Manchu nobleman. On his 25th birthday, he visited a brothel called Yee Hung Yuen and met the prostitute Yu Seung (Sharla Cheung). In an attempt to win her heart, he and his father General So (Ng Man Tat) of Canton, move to Peking so he can compete in the martial scholar exam. However, due to his inability to write Chinese for the written component of the exam, a substitute was caught sitting in for him. As a result he and his father were stripped of their titles and wealth, forced by the Emperor to be beggars. Beggar So saved the life of a senior member of the Beggar’s Gang and became their leader.

Later he foiled an assassination attempt on the Emperor by defeating the leader of the Tian Li Cult (Norman Tsui). The Emperor wanted to reinstate So’s former title but he declined. Instead he was awarded a golden bowl with the inscription, “Alm’s Begging on the Emperor’s Order.”

King of Beggars attempts to illustrate the attitude that society takes to beggars and the homeless. Although it is set during the Ching dynasty, it gives a picture of how we treat the less fortunate, in some cases treating humans as animals. In the case of the story, it illustrates how easily a person can have all the wealth in the world and lose it all.

Stephen Chow gives one of the funniest performances in his career as So Chaat Ha Yee Chaan / So Chaan. He learns the Sleeper’s Fist from Hung Chat Gung (Yuen Cheung Yan) and is given the kung fu manual to the Eighteen Dragon Palms technique when he is elected leader of the Beggar’s Gang.

From his energetic displays of martial prowess to his convincing portrayal of a beggar, Chow gives as a reality check in the lives of being beggars. Just exclude the martial arts.

Ng Man Tat gives great support as So Chaan’s father, the General of Canton. Even though he and Chaan have to be beggars, they still jokingly laugh at the prospect.

Sharla Cheung as Yu Seung, is actually an undercover prostitute from the Beggar’s Gang sent to assassinate Chiu Mo Gik (Norman Tsui) for killing their leader and some generals of the Taiping Reign. She fails her mission and is used under Chiu’s magic to kill the Emperor. However, So Chaan stops her.

Norman Tsui plays the villainous Chiu (Jiu) Mo Gik, a Ching official and the leader of the Tian Li cult. He possesses supernatural / magic kung fu and wants to overthrow the Emperor. He appears to be the better fighter than Beggar So, due to the magic kung fu, but the final confrontation speaks for itself.

Yuen Cheung Yan makes a cameo appearance as Hung Chat Gung, one of the senior members of the Beggar’s Gang. So Chaan gives him food and is in turn taught the Sleeper’s Fist. Yuen Cheung Yan also choreographed the action sequences.

King of Beggars has some references from Louis Cha’s novels, using the character Hung Chat Gung from the Condor Heroes trilogy, the Beggar’s Gang and the 18 Dragon palms technique. Stephen Chow also pays tribute to Bruce Lee with a few of Bruce’s famous poses, including one with a nunchaku.

King of Beggars is a very funny film that should please Stephen Chow’s fans.

I rate it 7.5/10.

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Directed by Gordan CHAN Gar Seung.
Cast: Stephen CHOW (Jow) Sing Chi, Norman TSUI Siu Keung, NG Man (Mang) Tat (Daat), Sharla CHEUNG (Jeung) Man, YUEN Cheung Yan, LAM Wai, WONG Chung (Jung), CHAN Wai Yee, YUEN King Daan, Peter LAI Pei Dak, CHENG (Jeng) Daan Sui, Nat CHAN Baak Cheung, WONG Hin Mung.
Reviewed by Jerome (Bart)