Lucky Grandma ★★★★★

Tsai Chin from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and THE JOY LUCK CLUB appears in every scene of this outstanding and hilarious debut feature from Sasie Sealy that plays like a hybrid of Bong Joon-ho and the Coen Brothers.

Chin plays an 86-year-old, first generation immigrant in Chinatown who goes bust on a senior gambling trip but absconds with a gym bag full of cash when the guy sitting next to her on the bus ride home dies in his sleep. Turns out it’s mafia money, and they want it back.

My favorite thing about stories like this is how it obliterates the stereotype of submissive and /or quiet Asian women. Grandma is a badass but not a cartoon either. The choices she makes, her ability to negotiate and defend herself are unpredictable and extremely entertaining, but there’s real danger here. And there’s humanity as well, and Sealy has a gift for intimate moments between characters that communicate so much without slowing down the momentum.

Just the dynamic between Grandma and her westernized family would’ve made a great movie, but the gangster element pushes the narrative to a level of intrigue that speaks to the skills of everyone involved.