No More Bets <孤注一掷>, which was originally released in China on August 8 has amassed over RMB2.74 billion and still counting. The movie currently stands as the fourth highest-grossing Chinese movie so far behind Lost in the Stars <消失的她>, The Wandering Earth II <流浪地球2> and Full River Red <满江红>.
Inspired by numerous real-life fraud cases, No More Bets <孤注一掷> begins with Pan Sheng (Lay Zhang), an up-and-coming programmer who immediately quits his job after being passed over for a promotion to become the new Chief Technology Officer. Fortunately, Pan already has a backup plan when he accepts the lucrative offer to join a Singaporean gaming company called Firefly.
Everything looks fine at first until he and the rest of the recruits find themselves being deceived by the said company. It turns out that the so-called gaming company runs a fraud factory in a rural primary school. Lu Bingkun (Eric Wang), who managed the organisation with the help of his right-hand man, Cai (Sunny Sun), force the recruits to work for them in an online scam.
From there, Pan meets Liang Anna (a stunning Gina Jin), who is one of the croupiers managing the online gambling on the table. We learn that she used to be a model before she ended up being coaxed into joining a company as an online game host with the promise of making easy money.
Clocking at 130 minutes, Shen Ao, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Zhang Yifan and Xu Luyang, keeps things interesting in a methodical manner. Earlier in the movie, the story delves into the inner workings of a fraud factory that covers different types of scams from stock investments to bitcoin mining and online gambling, where the latter being the primary focus. There are different divisions involved with designated team members operating as positioners, enticers and assisting evaders, among others.
The movie also split its story beyond Pan and Anna’s experiences working in the fraud factory. Shen’s sprawling narrative covers Anna’s backstory and Tian’s (Darren Wang) point of view as an otherwise promising young man becomes addicted to online gambling. The latter tends to suffer from an overwrought drama, complete with the obligatory morality lesson. But such a shortcoming is forgivable, thanks to Darren Wang’s above-average performance as a compulsive gambler.
Then, there’s the anti-fraud division led by Zhao Dongran (Yong Mei), who’s been trying to nab the elusive organisation in charge of the online scam. The law enforcement storyline is the least interesting part of the movie. This is especially true with Yong Mei’s character mainly served as a blatant representative of a public service announcement giving speeches about the danger of online scams and frauds. Such a scene is unnecessarily on the nose for its own good. But then again, this is a movie made in China and the filmmakers have to find ways to appease the country’s strict censorship board.
Still, No More Bets <孤注一掷> remains consistently engaging and the confident pace certainly helps. Zhang and Jin deliver solid performances as Pan and Anna, both victims of the same job scam attempt to look for a way out. Eric Wang pulls off a sneakily charismatic turn as the leader of the online scam, Lu Bingkun while Sunny Sun is effective as Lu’s uncompromising right-hand man.
Credit also goes to Shen for not shying away from some of the movie’s brutal moments. For instance, there’s a scene where Cai tortures Anna as a result of her wrongdoing. But nothing beats the part I didn’t see it coming. Let’s just say it revolves around Tian’s consequences of getting knee-deep in online gambling.