good illusion depends on a distraction.
There were plenty of those in Republican era China, including rampant
warlordism, the threat of foreign intervention, and a conspiracy to restore the
Qing dynasty. Yet, master illusionist Chang Hsien is far more concerned with
rescuing his former fiancée in Derek Yee’s The Great Magician (trailer
releases today on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA.
Chang left to study magic abroad it left his intended without his ostensive
protection. Belatedly learning she has
been kidnapped and forced to live as warlord Bully Lei’s wife #7, Chang falls
in with a group of revolutionaries plotting to abduct the abductor. However, he finds Liu Yin is just as hacked
off at him as she is with Lei, whose clumsy advances she easily foils with some
vintage Jackie Chan style acrobatics.
Nonetheless, Chang is determined to save her and his imprisoned mentor
(her father, of course), but as he befriends Lei under false pretenses, he
learns the circumstances are more complicated than he suspected and the warlord
might not be as bad as he assumed. Then
the real bad guys get down to business.
are some stylishly choreographed scenes of Chang in performance that look great
and advance the story quite cleverly.
However, the film’s real ace in the hole is Zhou Xun’s Liu Yin. Subverting the damsel-in-distress convention,
she is a genuine force to be reckoned with.
Zhou frequently flashes her “we are not amused” look and it kills every time.
suave illusionist might sound like a perfect role for Tony Leung (Little Tony Chiu-wai
of Red Cliff and 2046, not Big Tony Ka-fa The
Lover and Election) and he indeed
fits comfortably into the tuxedo. Although
he makes a smooth transition from martial arts to stage illusions, Leung frankly
gets a bit hammy when the film periodically veers into slapstick. Yet, he is the picture of dignity compared to
Lau Ching-wan, who mugs shamelessly as Bully Lei. Still, the way their friendship develops on
screen is somewhat endearing.
There is a lot of handsome spectacle in Great Magician, nicely rendered by Siu Fu
Ma’s VFX team. Zhou’s fans will also be
delighted with a lovely performance dripping with attitude, which considerably
elevates the proceedings. There is a fair
amount of shtick to wade through, though.
Recommended for primarily fans of Leung, Zhou, and magic in general, The Great Magician is now available for
home viewing from Well Go USA.
Labels: DVD, Hong Kong Cinema, Tony Leung, Zhou Xun