New to US video in 1998, this hodgepodge action-comedy was a major hit in Asia on original release in 1983. Lightweight and mildly amusing overall, it's distinguished by breathtaking stunts and breakneck fight sequences.
Released from prison, five bumbling criminals vow brotherhood and move communally into a house shared by Curly (John Shum) and his sister, Shirley (Cherie Chung). Together they start the Lucky Stars housecleaning service, while the ex-cons vie for Shirley's affection. Meanwhile, an
over-enthusiastic but luckless cop (Jackie Chan) is determined to bust a counterfeiting gang led by Chiu (James Tien). During the course of a rollerskating exhibition a passerby is robbed, and the cop takes off in hot pursuit, not realizing that what has been stolen is a briefcase containing the
counterfeit plates. Hastily tossing the evidence away, the robbers are pursued in a frenzied chase while the Lucky Stars unknowingly drive off with the briefcase in their van.
Coincidentally crashing a party where Ho man (Cheung Chung), another gangster who wants to buy the plates, is meeting with Chiu, the Stars are discovered and forced to fight their way out of the mansion. But Ho captures them and holds Shirley hostage in exchange for the briefcase. Splitting up and
luring both gangs to a warehouse, the Stars engage in a spectacular free-for-all with Chiu's men before convincing Chiu and Ho of each other's duplicity, leading the gangs to square off against one another before the cops arrive and round up the bad guys.
Pinter it ain't. The "plot" is simply a series of silly coincidences haphazardly tying together the extravagant set pieces. Jackie Chan's character is completely extraneous to the main story line, popping up periodically simply for action sequences. But what sequences they are. After learning to
rollerskate for his role in THE BIG BRAWL (1980), Chan was frustrated when that picture's director, Robert Clouse, wouldn't allow him to show his stuff. To allay that disappointment, the central stunt sequence in WINNERS & SINNERS showcases him flying down the highway on skates in pursuit of
robbers, bouncing like a pinball between speeding cars, and whizzing under a moving tractor-trailer, culminating in a massive smash-up involving literally dozens of cars. Chan's other major scene has him and Sammo Hung foiling the holdup of a fast-food joint, with even less connection to the main
story line. But the fast-paced, inventive fighting in the sequence is more than enough justification for its inclusion.
Rival studio Cinema City had enjoyed smash box-office success in 1982 with the first installment of their stunt-filled ACES GO PLACES action-comedy series. WINNERS & SINNERS was Golden Harvest's spin on the formula, with an ensemble cast of comedians and action stars. Cowriting with ubiquitous HK
scripter Barry Wong, director Hung added the ensemble element, inspired by his background performing in a Peking Opera troupe with classmates that included Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. Biao, in fact, turns up in a cameo role for an ever-so-brief tussle with Chan, and helped choreograph the
spectacular fighting scenes. With nonmartial artists playing four of the five Stars, it's doubly impressive that the action is so witty and wild. Even Cherie Chung, playing the soon-to-be-standard HK role of a beautiful woman surrounded by horny, backstabbing lechers, gets some impressive licks
in. But the truly standout fighting is reserved for Chan and Hung, particularly in the latter's juggernaut finale showdown with bad guys played by the likes of champion fighters Dick Wei and Chung Fat. (The trio of Biao, Chan, and Hung would have to wait a few more months until PROJECT A (1983) to
appear together onscreen.)
The dubbed version with some different character names is considerably sharper than the subtitled version, but runs six minutes shorter, with several minor cuts. Known as 5 LUCKY STARS in Japan, the film was the first in a long-running series (not to mention countless spinoffs and imitations) with
a slightly revolving cast. By 1986, Chan was long gone, and the ill-conceived LUCKY STARS GO PLACES was a merger in name only with Cinema City's flagship money-maker; starring Sammo, the film relegated the rest of the "Stars" to cameos, replacing them for the bulk of the film with a new gang. The
most recent attempt at revival was 1996's HOW TO MEET THE LUCKY STARS, a weak effort starring one of the 1980s lineups, with Sammo in basically an extended cameo. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1983
- Rating: NR
- Review: New to US video in 1998, this hodgepodge action-comedy was a major hit in Asia on original release in 1983. Lightweight and mildly amusing overall, it's distinguished by breathtaking stunts and breakneck fight sequences. Released from prison, five bumblin… (more)