In New York, a crotchety, chain-smoking Chinese-American grandmother gets lucky after leaving a casino … and then all hell breaks loose. Sasie Sealy’s black comedy, Lucky Grandma, places granny in the middle of a turf war between rival gangs.
It all starts when Lei Lei the Fortune Teller (Wai Ching Ho) tells Grandma (Tsai Chin) a particular day will bring her good fortune. Grandma pulls what little life savings she has out of the bank and heads to a casino to risk it all. But on the return journey, things take a turn. Suffice to say, she obtains riches that don’t belong to her.
She’s quickly targeted by gangs, which results in her taking drastic action. Grandma hires a baby-faced bodyguard, Big Pong (Hsiao-Yuan Ha), to give her ‘round-the-clock protection. But that doesn’t work out so well. Before this is over blood will be shed, lives will be lost and someone will be kidnapped.
Featuring inept gangsters and a series of stage-managed sequences, Lucky Grandma is preposterous fun. It plays on the idea of a defenceless little old lady outwitting and outmanoeuvring the obstacles in her way. But the more scrapes she manages to get out of, the closer to disaster she gets.
Sealy and Angela Cheng wrote the screenplay.
Keeping a straight face and a cranky disposition are the hallmarks of Tsai Chin’s (The Joy Luck Club) memorable lead performance. She makes the movie, while remaining cast members are essentially bit players.
Lucky Grandma upends the heist genre. The laughs may not be uproarious, but there’s enough here to put smiles on a few faces.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.