Review Rating: 8
In 1920’s Beijing, a powerful Magician returns to his homeland to fight arrogant warlords and reclaim the woman he loves!
There’s this little movie called The Illusionist starring Edward Norton that came out a few years ago, that I absolutely adored and of course own on DVD. This film, The Great Magician, could be the long-lost Chinese brother of that film! Chang Hsien is a Master Magician, has his own crew, and a daring plan to stop the warlords threatening to divide the country like a pie among themselves while war outside rages. Also, Chang wants to get his beloved back. And so he befriends someone called Bully Lei (one can only imagine why he’s called that), who happens to have a gaggle of wives, and is a warlord himself. It also turns out that Bully Lei’s 7th and newest wife is the beloved that Chang is looking for, Yin, whom he left to rescue his Master in the arts of illusion. Plots and intrigue abound, especially when the warlords start getting involved with the Japanese, the Manchus, and even some of the women! I kind of failed to see where the 7 Wonders of the World bit, which was shown in a way that spoke to me of real actual magic (as opposed to stage magician illusions), fit in to all this mess, but the awe in which those men who’ve heard of the 7 Wonders seem to hold it, helps tie it all together towards the end of the movie.
Bully Lei seems to wander from yelling warlord to flustered husband to doting puppy dog in love and all manner in-between, so it’s a bit hard to tell what he’ll do and whether or not he truly is a good or bad guy, right up near to the end of the movie even. His performance, while often comical in an unintentional manner, help keep the tone of the movie playful while maintaining tension. Tony Leung is Chang Hsien, and I can’t say enough good things about him or the character he played. Deftly juggling all manner of plots, attempts on his life, romance and yet always on the tips of ones toes, poised for flight – Leung is a joy to watch. 7th Wife Yin gets a whole fight scene unto herself when Bully Lei tries to talk her into sleeping with him; after that, the only flashes of her fighting spirit we see is in her sharp-barbed words, to both her husband and her former flame. The film, despite the hefty subjects that sometimes threaten to weigh it down with seriousness, maintains a lightheartedness throughout that is hard to do, especially for an epic Asian movie. (Sorry but a great deal of the Asian movies I’ve watched are known for being very tragic and sad.) After all, this is love we’re fighting for, either of our country or a single person, doesn’t matter, and magic is our chosen weapon!
For a heaping helping of that oh so missed little thing called plot, give The Great Magician a try on Netflix now!