Review: House of Mahjong (2007)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

Well, you see there’s a “House” and it has, y’know… “Mahjong” in it. With little more than two shooting locations the title of the film certainly bares it all: a strangely customer-less shopping mall and the interior of a millionaire’s mansion. Everything about this film speaks of its incredibly low budget – from the script, the acting to the bland production and cinematography. But before you figure that you’ve read all you need to read, there is actually a lot more to be said about this flick as it turns out to be somewhat of a surprise also.

If you’re a fervent nerd of the game and wondered where all the Mahjong action was in Kung Fu Mahjong, then this could very well be the film for you. This movie is practically 90% Mahjong playing scenes, with plenty of decent “in-joke” game humour sprinkled amongst some very lame gags and an improbable amount of killer hands. Armed with this arsenal of “no brainer” humour, it does turn out to be a lot of fun — sometimes that fun does fall a little flat but still manages regular amounts of laughter throughout.

In terms of film-making, House of Mahjong thoroughly dispenses with the need for such trivialities of plot, foreshadowing and character development. In fact, it’s only once the millionaire’s son (played by Raymond Wong) arrives on the scene that any sort of story becomes apparent. With poor acting and no attempt to garnish the production with decent values and extras, it does become difficult to suspend one’s disbelief at what goes on in this movie. The complete lack of customers in the mall is partly offset by the colourful characters that work in the shops. You have the bra salesman with extreme fashion sense (Dayo Wong), the aquarium seller (Sam Lee), paper salesman (Cheung Tat-ming) and an eatery run by two sisters (played by Candy Lo and Elanne Kong), the interaction of which the film perhaps invests a little too much time in.

Individually, the cast of this film is pretty uninspiring, as they all seem to be very bad at comedy. However, together at the Mahjong table there is some solid chemistry and interaction which makes for some very entertaining game scenes. The movie also steps up a notch with many thanks to Matthew Chow, who overplays his role with such zeal that he really commands the laughs in this flick. His rendition of a Triad-esque villain who breaks into “Japanese anime” fervour is really quite priceless.

This movie is far from a masterpiece and more closer to a “guilty pleasure”. If you love the game of Mahjong, you will most likely get quite a few laughs out of this. If however you aren’t familiar with the game, you might otherwise find that even leaving your brain at the door will still leave you wincing at this one.

6 chicken hands out of 10.
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