On March 19, 2013 Well Go USA releases “The Great Magician” on Blu-ray and DVD and the publisher has provided us with the opportunity to review this Chinese action-adventure adapted from the Zhang Haifan novel.
“The Great Magician” takes place in China in the early 1920s and follows Zhang Xian, a magician who heads to a territory controlled by General Lei Bully in order to help a group of revolutionaries bring back the republic. The general has amassed an army with the help of his lieutenant Liu Kun Shan, but it has come at a price, the people fear the general and believe him to be a monster, it doesn’t help his reputation that he uses any excuse he can to get more money from his citizens and has kidnapped Liu Yin, a young woman who waits for her fiancé’s return while searching for her father, in the hopes of making her his seventh wife.
The goal of the revolutionaries is to kidnap Lei Bully during one of Zhang’s magic shows and hold him ransom until their allies are freed and the republic restored, the problem with the plan however is that Zhang is Liu Yin’s missing fiancé and his intentions are to steal her back from the general, but despite her cold demeanor towards Lei bully, does she really want to go? As Zhang tries to win back Liu Yin, who is still hurt by his past actions, he finds himself caught up in the middle of more than just a love triangle.
Lui Yin’s father, Zhang’s former master, is alive and imprisoned by the general, but despite the horrible reputation the general has he isn’t quite the villain that Zhang had pictured him to be, nor is he the fool that he is often seen as. To save Lui Yin’s father, Zhang will have to decide on whether or not to help the general uncover the truth behind Liu Kun Shan’s actions or helping the revolutionaries in their fight.
“The Great Magician” had an interesting story, like the many magic tricks seen throughout, nothing is ever as it seems and the true villains aren’t who you would have initially expected. Zhang, played by Tony Leung, is the perfect showman, he is cool, calm and charming, something that you see early on when he has the opportunity to make each of the general’s wives swoon. Lui Yin, played by Zhou Xun, made for his perfect match with her strong willed and serious attitude. It was a bit of a surprise but Lei Bully, played by Lau Ching-Wan, proved to be one of my favorite characters by the end of the film, he seemed like a fool and the comedic relief throughout even though he was seen as a villain, but as the story progresses the general seemed to steal the show with some great comedy, a bit of ruthlessness and a few moments of surprising brilliance.
The special effects, which can make or break a film involving magic, were done fairly well and a lot of the magic tricks and action sequences looked impressive. There were a few moments where things looked a little on the low quality side, but for the most part the Blu-ray version had great visuals.
Along with the original Mandarin language, “The Great Magician” has the option of an English dub. Though it goes without saying that the Mandarin option is the better choice, the English dub isn’t bad and should you not want to read subtitles it makes a reasonable option. The English subtitles had good flow and remained on screen for an acceptable length of time.
The single Blu-ray disc comes in a standard Blu-ray case that features a great looking image of Zhang, Tony Leung, wielding fire on the cover. Included as on-disc extras are trailers for other Well Go USA releases, a trailer for “The Great Magician” and “Making the Magic”, which includes behind the scenes footage.
Overall “The Great Magician” doesn’t quite live up to the name, while the magic tricks are impressive the story itself just felt like it took too long to get going. Even with the slow build up though, it seemed like there was just far too many things happening and it messed with the flow of the story. That said however, “The Great Magician” is still an entertaining, though cheesy at times, film filled with some great moments of comedy and it features a great cast.
If you’re a fan of Tony Leung or Lau Ching-Wan, then “The Great Magician” should be worth watching.
The Great Magician
Publisher: Well Go USA
Runtime: 129 minutes
Number of Discs: 1 Blu-ray disc (Also available on DVD)
Languages: English, Mandarin with English subtitles
Age Rating: NR
Release Date: March 19, 2013
(A review copy of “The Great Magician” on Blu-ray was provided by Well Go USA.)