Directed by Anthony Chan
Produced by Anthony Chan
Written by Raymond To
Cast: Stephen Chow, Sandra Ng, Anthony Chan, Anthony Wong, Cutie Mui, Shing Fui-On, Lam Kau, Stuart Ong, Mai Kei, Billy Chow, Hui Ying-Sau and Billy Ching Sau-Yat
A thief and a garbage woman are sucked into a scheme to steal a will that promises great riches.
1990 was the year that Stephen Chow’s career took off. All for the Winners being that singular hit that took him up to stardom. When Fortune Smiles although far from his most well-known films but is very much part of that transition period when Stephen Chow’s career was hitting more and more of a stride.
Stephen Chow plays a mischievous thief that loves to throw pranks and outwit his opponents through his use of Cantonese banter. Chow’s character is pretty much in the mold of the type of personas that he usually plays. The director tags along as a bumbling private eye that makes an occasional appearance for a gag.
Sandra Ng, plays a hard-working garbage collector that likes her job a little too much. While Chow’s character is almost always in a state of amusement, Ng’s Rubbish Fung provides small moments of gravitas through her distress. But, it doesn’t amount to much although her fatherly bond with the Second Master is oddly touching. Second Master under the late Lam Kau is quite an impressive dignified figure whose more caring than one might believe. Shing Fui-On’s Lung is his son. The father-son pair is an amusing duo. Anthony Wong plays an over the top villain akin to the one he would play in John Woo’s Hard Boiled. Wong never turns in a bad performance and When Fortune Smiles is no exception.
When Fortune Smiles is a comedy of errors involving imposters all trying to one-up each other. It is an elaborate scheme that falls prey to its own sheer convoluted setup. The ensuing entanglements are a good excuse for enjoyable hijinks and some not so enjoyable hijinks. It doesn’t descend to the sheer wackiness of Chow’s later works but it is still sort of a forerunner for the more overt wackiness of his later works. The gags are mainly driven by mistaken identity and misunderstandings. Unlike some of Chow’s other films where the film’s plot is sidelined by gags, at least, the gags relate back to the main plot. However, the comedy isn’t that refined, so, hardly it’s a standout from the other schlock of the era. Yet, it is enjoyable fluff as the two leads have likable personas who do a great job at putting their signature stamp on the gags. Stephen Chow and Sandra Ng’s romantic pairing fails to establish much chemistry despite the pair displaying one in a film released in the same year, Love is Love. Although the clash at the end isn’t the most creative, it is a still enjoyable romp.
When Fortune Smiles is a mild and middle of the road comedy made in the year that Hong Kong’s King of Comedy, Stephen Chow hit stardom. It aspires to have a bit of heart in its story but lacks the refined comedy of Chow’s later works and a lackluster narrative. Yet, it works as a fun comedy of errors . Also, especially if you enjoy Stephen Chow and Sandra Ng as leads.