Much has happened since 2019, the year ‘One More Chance’ was actually made, not least of which is the death of actor Liu Kai-Chi – this film comes out over two years after his death which itself came two years after ‘One More Chance’ was made. Known under a few different titles, ranging from ‘Be Water, My Friend’ and even ‘Don’t Call Me God of Gamblers’, ‘One More Chance’ seems like it could have been made thirty years earlier. And that doesn’t prove to be such a bad thing.
Gambler, hair-dresser, and all-around loser Water (Yun-Fat) lives life chasing money with his colleagues and friends. His life of gambling and avoiding the ire of the local debt collectors is interrupted when his estranged wife arrives with his severely autistic son and persuades the wastrel to look after the youth…for a price. Water agrees as he is in desperate need of the money, but soon discovers how ill-equipped he is to deal with an autistic son. The two briefly connect when the former discovers that the latter is a ‘lucky charm’ for his visits to the casino, but Water can only use the young lad for so long. Yet, with the encouragement of his friends and the acknowledgement that he has been a terrible father thus far, Water begins to see this as a rare chance for redemption.
I got strange feelings of nostalgia watching ‘One More Chance’ and was briefly transported back to Chow Yun-Fat’s 1989 drama ‘All About Ah-Long’. It has a similar theme, presents us with similar characters and, at times, even appears to be set in the 80s: some of the clothes and hairstyles made me think it was set in yesteryear, and it was only the appearance of mobile phones that suggested otherwise. While Chow Yun-Fat playing a father figure is a little bit harder to swallow as he is pushing 68, an actor of his standard can make nearly any scenario work. While it isn’t as good as its obvious inspirations (and there are clearly a few), it somehow works, perhaps due to the quality of the cast. It may be a throwback, perhaps an antiquated one to some, but in an era of uninspiring cinema, it’s strangely welcome.
One thing that ‘One More Chance’ isn’t is original; it is very reliant on the tropes of the genre, including the redemption of the main character and the new purpose he acquires in life due to the unexpected responsibility. For the first hour, this burden weighs heavily on the film, with most entertainment coming from Water’s complete lack of finesse and his equally damaged group of friends. Yet, when it starts to find its own voice, it becomes an effective and (dare I say) uplifting drama. The last few shots, in particular, leave the viewer with a warm glow, something they might have forgotten cinema of any flavour could still offer. It achieves this without being mawkish, just about utilising the cliches without becoming a slave to them.
‘One More Chance’ is also packed with fine performances, especially Chow, Will Or, and an ageless Anita Yuen. It tackles its subject without the softly-softly approach of Western cinema, but does so with real heart. After two hours, it feels like a refreshing piece of nostalgia that has somehow escaped into 2023.