The Great Magician (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 5, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“The Great Magician” is a fun, witty action fantasy film featuring wonderful performances by Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Lau Ching-wa and Zhou Xun. But with a lengthy film with frenetic pacing of its intricate plot full of twists and turns, while entertaining, some portions of the film does lose its luster due to frenetic pacing. Still enjoyable and a Hong Kong film worth watching!
TITLE: The Great Magician (Daai mo seut si)
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 129 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,16:9 Widescreen, Mandarin (Original) and English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Mandarin and English 2.0, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Directed by Tung-Shing Yee
Screenplay by Tin Nam Chun, Ho Leung Lau, Tung-Shing Yee
Executive Producer: Jeffery Chan, Albert Yeung, Dong Yu
Producer: Henry Fong, Mandy Law-Huang, Peggy Lee
Music by Leon Ko
Cinematography by Nobuyasu Kita
Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong
Production Design by Chung Man Yee
Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Chang Hsien
Ching Wan Lau as Bully Lei
Xun Zhou as Yin
In the early 1920 s, on the streets of Beijing, the nation s most talented performers have gathered to show off their most spectacular skills. The challenge is set: a handsome prize to whomever can reproduce a magic trick called the Eight Immortals Treat. Zhang Xian (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) appears amidst the waiting crowd and decides to give it a try. So begins a legend of pure magic. Adapted from the Zhang Haifan novel, led by award-winning director Derek Yee (ONE NITE IN MONGKOK, SHINJUKU INCIDENT) and starring the three most powerful stars in Chinese cinema Tony Leung Chiu-wai (HERO, RED CLIFF), Lau Ching-wan (MAD DETECTIVE) and Zhou Xun (CLOUD ATLAS), THE GREAT MAGICIAN is an endearing spectacle of high-spirited action and fantasy.
From director Tung-Shing Yee (a.k.a. Derek Yee, “Shinjuku Incident”, “Protege”, “One Nite in Mongkok”) comes a Hong Kong action fantasy film starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai (“Hero”, “2046”, “Infernal Affairs”, “In the Mood for Love”), Lau Ching-wa (“Mad Detective”, “Black Mask”, “Running Out of Time”) and Zhou Xun (“Painted Skin: The Resurrection”, “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, “Cloud Atlas”, “Suzhou River”).
The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in March 2013.
Set after the Revolution with the Qing Dynasty being overthrown in China, China has been broken up into fiefdoms ran by warlords who are attacking each other for prominence. But one warlord is feared by many and that is Bully Lei (portrayed by Lau Ching-wa). But it’s not that Bully is a cruel man, he has a reputation of it but in truth, it’s his lieutenant Liu Kun Shan (portrayed by Wu Gang) who uses magic to scare convicts into joining his army.
Most recently, Liu has brought new technology with cinema to use as propaganda scare tactics to get more people to join the warlord’s army. But for Bully Lei, despite having seven wives, he is more concerned for his seventh wife Liu Yin (portrayed by Zhou Xun), a girl he imprisoned who’s father is being held by Liu for some reason.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to a group of revolutionaries led by the popular magician Chang Hsien (portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) who is working with a local businessman to use his establishment to host magic performances but in truth it’s a way for revolutionaries to kidnap Bully Lei. For Chang, his main interest is to free his former fiance Liu Yin from Bully Lei and save her father, his master, magician Liu Wan Yao.
But in order to do that, he must gain Bully Lei’s trust. But will the independent Liu Yin, want her former fiance who she has not seen for three years and has abandoned her with no contact for all this time, save her from Bully Lei, a man who has treated her with kindness?
“The Great Magician” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The film is presented in 16:9 widescreen and picture quality is very good. From close-up details and seeing the textures on the clothing, visual effects such as flames/fires and computer generated smoke look good especially outdoor scenes in which colors are vibrant. Skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep. Overall, picture quality is very good!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Great Magician” is presented in Mandarin (Original) and English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and Mandarin and English 2.0. Both Mandarin and English lossless tracks feature good surround sound activity. Live shows inside the theater during a magic performance utilizes audience clapping through the surround channels, fireworks come alive through the surround channels as well as ambiance. Also, music is utilized through the surround channels. Dialogue is crystal clear as with the musical score by Leon Ko.
But a action fantasy film that with plenty of surround activity, especially during the action scenes towards the end of the film.
Subtitles are in English.
“The Great Magician” come with the following special features:
- Making the Magic – (37:55) The making of “The Great Magician” featuring interviews with Tung-Shing Yee and the cast. Behind-the-scenes on the making of various scenes.
- Trailer – (:59) Theatrical trailer for “The Great Magician”.
Featuring a wonderful pairing of two great HK actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Lau Ching-wa with elegant actress Zhou Xun , “The Great Magician” is a film that is well-acted, features plenty of humor, action and fantasy elements.
For the most part, the film is a comedy. Lau Ching-wa plays the warlord Bully who is rumored to be a tyrant, but in truth, he is kindhearted and doesn’t like to see people getting hurt. But he knows the importance of his power as a warlord and despite his lieutenant Liu wanting to exert power on the people, Bully resists. Part of the charm of Bully Lei is that he is so unlike the warlord that people think of him as.
Clumsy and naive, Lau Ching-wa is a versatile actor who knows how to get people to laugh through facial movements and his action and he achieves it in “The Great Magician”.
For Bully is mostly a man that is dedicated in growing his empire but finding a way to have his seventh wife, Liu Yin love him.
Liu Yin is an independent woman who has been kept confined by Liu Yin. A woman who just wants her father to be freed and will never submit to him or any man. Actress Zhou Xun has done a fantastic job in many films, playing the cold or somewhat emotionless characters. In “The Great Magician”, she is a woman who was left behind by her fiance Chang and now that he has returned, she is not sure if she has any love for him any more.
Typically, you don’t see to many Hong Kong films, especially one set in the 1920’s where a woman is portrayed as strong and not the typical damsel in distress role. The character is portrayed as independent and strong.
Meanwhile, the role of Chang is wonderfully performed by veteran Tony Leung Chiu-wai. A suave and confident magician, he wants to save his former fiance and her father, but realizes how much she has changed in years because it took so long for him to come back for her.
A film showcasing a love triangle, it becomes more interesting when Bully comes to the magician Chang in hopes to learn magic to woo his seventh wife Liu Yin. But since Yin’s father is a master magician and her former boyfriend is also a magician, she has seen it all.
The film does feature a storyline about corrupt Chinese working with the evil Japanese who seek to cause disruption in Bully’s land. While the Lt. Liu Kun Shan (portrayed by Wu Gang) is seen as the primary antagonist, part of the problem of the film is that it tries to be a film about a love triangle, yet tries to incorporate this behind-the-scenes planning of a coup between Liu and the Japanese. Because the film is a comedy, the antagonists action can’t be taken as anything too deep. And as a viewer, it’s not easy to care for this other side story as you are more invested on Chang and whether or not he can free his former love and her father.
For the most part, at 129 minutes, you feel that the pacing is off as too much of the plot involving the coup attempt is going too fast and feels rushed.
But as a fan of Derek Yee’s films, it’s good to see him doing something outside of crime thrillers. Not emotional, dark or deep, this is a film that is bound with humor, visual effects and is quite enjoyable as a comedy.
The film does look wonderful on Blu-ray and the visual effects on the magic used throughout the film is nicely done. Costume design is also well done and cinematography is very good. Especially the wire-work for stunts throughout the film. The lossless soundtrack is well-done and is quite immersive. I wish there were more special features but I am glad that a 38-minute featurette was included as most Asian cinema tend to only have short featurettes and a trailer.
Overall, “The Great Magician” is a fun, witty action fantasy film featuring wonderful performances by Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Lau Ching-wa and Zhou Xun. But with a lengthy film with frenetic pacing of its intricate plot full of twists and turns, while entertaining, some portions of the film does lose its luster due to frenetic pacing. Still enjoyable and a Hong Kong film worth watching!
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