Casino Raiders [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (24th January 2024).
The Film

After serving a prison sentence, the "Best Gambler in Asia" Crab Chan (Infernal Affairs' Andy Lau) reconnects with partner Sam Law (Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars' Alan Tam) when they are summoned to Lake Tahoe by Brother Lung (The Old Master's Charles Heung) who cannot figure out how a group of Japanese gamblers are beating the system. Closely examining their moves via closed circuit camera and observation at the tables, the pair are able to determine the complex method of signaling between the men and leave the rest to Lung. In the meantime, Crab hits the table while Sam romances lonely Hong Kong heiress Ko-Yan (The Way We Are's Idy Chan), a flirtation which becomes a whirlwind romance. Upon return to Hong Kong, however, things change between the friends as Sam, eager for a life beyond gambling, is introduced by fiancee Ko-Yan to her businessman father Tong (Foo Wang-Tat) while Crab works his tricks at the local gambling dens with the help of new love and former prostitute Bo Bo (Millionaires' Express' Rosamund Kwan). Their differing goals drive a wedge between them until Crab learns from an informant (As Tears Go By's Ronald Wong) that Taro (Sword Stained with Royal Blood's Lung Fong) and his father (Fudoh: The New Generation's Hagiwara Kenzo), both of the gamblers from the Japanese group, are out for revenge for their men who Lung had murdered and dumped in the Pacific Ocean. Crab manages to rescue Sam but his hand is badly-injured, hindering his ability to cheat at cards, but he is too proud to accept Sam's offer to go into business with him. When Sam barely survives an attack by Taro after he busts up a deal between Taro's father and his unsuspecting future father-in-law, Tong reveals that he knows everything about him but will not oppose his marriage to his daughter if he swears off gambling. When Taro goes after both Crab and Ko-Yan, Sam will have to chose between going straight and taking on the yakuza, the American mafia, and the Triads in a game where the winner takes all and the loser may lose some limbs.

With the established winning duo of Tam and Lau, director Wong Jing aimed with Casino Raiders for more of a prestige audience with a larger budget, globe-hopping locations, and an inflated running time of over two hours. While Wong Jing certainly puts all the money on the screen and the film was a hit, the rather simple story drags interminably often showing off more scenery than giving the extra screen time to Kwan whose former prostitute character is only given a few scenes to establish her love for Crab and attempts to help him in his self-destructive ways since she too sees no way of fitting into Sam's and Ko-Yan's safer world. For the most part, the action takes a back seat to the drama, although this makes some of the violence seem even more sadistic and mean-spirited particularly towards the women for the sake of motivation. While the plot's contrivances to push Sam into a more offensive position are very blatant, it is perhaps more dramatically-satisfying that Chan's Ko-Yan does not let Sam off the hook after discovering his manipulations whatever his motivation. Rather than create an English export version of the film, Wong Jing's producer Jimmy Heung funneled part of the budget into making a simultaneously-shot English "version" titled Fatal Bet on the same locations with much of the same supporting cast, but with Mark Arnold (Teen Wolf) and Murray McRae in the leads.


Casino Raiders was released theatrically with a running time of 127 minutes but was subsequently shortened to 124 minutes – with a couple blunt cuts including some warbling on the music track during one such instance – and this is the version that appeared on Hong Kong DVD from Universe Laser & Co. (an improvement on the laserdisc which was cut down to 113 minutes rather than spread the film over two CLV discs). The running time of Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray suggests that the cuts were made to the intermediate and possibly the negative materials rather than just whatever was used to make the video transfers (the running time is the same as the Hong Kong edition). The materials are in good shape and the image can be quite stunning when in the production value location exteriors and well-lit interiors. Shadows and some of the blacks can be a little noisy and indistinct – evident in the climax when several of the characters are in tuxedos – but do not hue towards the blue as seen in some other more revisionist grades of Hong Kong films from the period.


The film was not dubbed for export, so we have the original Cantonese LPCM 2.0 mono dub that also includes some Mandarin, Japanese, and English dialogue – as well as some exceedingly awful English dubbing of the mafia characters – and an English subtitle track free of any obvious errors.


Extras start off with a pair of commentary tracks from the usual suspects of Eureka's Hong Kong cinema titles. First up is an audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) who discusses the film in the context of the "Gamblers" film genre and as "peak Alan Tam" while Lau would not truly make it big until a few years later. He discusses how the longer running time allows for Wong Jing room for characterization but also speculates that pacing motivated the three minutes of cuts noted elsewhere.

On the audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, both of them note their individual experiences seeing Fatal Bet and then seeing another film with the same plot soon after. They also note that the film came at a time when Lau had been blacklisted by TVB for not deciding to renew his contract while Tam was making the film during a particularly busy period of touring and singing. They also provide some background on Hueng and his brother along with their Triad connections (the commentators were supposed to make a documentary on the pair before COVID).

"Martial Cards" (29:11) is a CFK (Crazy From Kong) documentary covering the genre of gambling films to which Casino Raiders belongs and what distinguishes it from an earlier cycle of gambling films in the seventies, as well as the Stephen Chow's parody of Wong Jing's God of Gamblers who would become part of the official series when Wong Jing and Chow decided to collaborate.

"Heroes, Guns & Gambling" (17:49) is an interview with action director Billy Chan (The Prodigal Son) who reveals that production was rushed because of the simultaneous production of both Casino Raiders and Fatal Bet and that he worked on both films while Dick Tso handled the direction for the latter.

The disc also includes the Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3:27).


The first two-thousand copies include an O-Card slipcase featuring artwork by Grégory Sacré (Gokaiju) and a collector's booklet featuring new writing by David West which were not supplied for review.


Wong Jing goes epic for Casino Raiders with mixed results.


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