MAGIC TO WIN Review

Editor, Asia; Hong Kong, China (@Marshy00)
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MAGIC TO WIN Review
It is unclear exactly what happened to Wilson Yip, but after a hugely successful run, from SHA PO LUNG in 2005 to IP MAN 2 in 2010, he appears to have lost his mojo. Earlier this year he attempted to remake Ching Siu-Tung's A CHINESE GHOST STORY, which resulted in a largely nonsensical muddle of CGI and demon-love. But it now appears to be something of a minor masterpiece when compared to Yip's latest offering - MAGIC TO WIN.

Again working from a script by Edmond Wong, the film stars Wong senior - long-time producer of Yip's films, among many others - as a university professor and closet Water Magician. Professor Hong accidentally transfers his powers to one of his students, Macy (newcomer Karena Ng), after they are both simultaneously struck by lightning. Macy now finds she is able to move objects at will, slow down time and other useful supernatural abilities, which come in very handy assisting her struggling volleyball team.

Meanwhile, an errant Fire Magician (Wu Jing) is on the rampage, stealing powers first from Gu Xinyue (Louis Koo) - a successful novelist and Wood Magician, and then the Earth powers of Ling Fung (Wu Chun), which renders him invisible to all but other magicians. Hoping that Professor Hong can help, Ling Fung heads for Pegasus University (hilariously named after the film's backers Pegasus Motion Pictures), only to discover that it is Macy who can see him, and not the professor. 

While clearly meant to be more lighthearted than Yip's previous films - and notably his first film set in a recognisable present since FLASHPOINT - the script for MAGIC TO WIN includes no less than five powerful magicians, yet seems utterly indifferent to the mythology behind their origins, motivations and elemental powers. Save for an indrotuctory preamble from Koo's novelist - whose books on the subject are never expolored in any great detail - we learn nothing of how and why these magicians gained their powers, only that they seem to keep them secret and can lose them all-too-easily. Wu Jing wants them so that he can open a time portal and return to the past - the reasons, why, however are only revealed at the film's conclusion.

What MAGIC TO WIN offers us instead - and therefore what Yip and Wong think we will be more interested in - is Raymond Wong's moronic attempts to flirt awkwardly with coach Yan Ni, while Macy cheats at volleyball and tries to help an invisible Wu Chun get back to his greenhouse. There is very little action in the film, and what we do get consists largely of hero poses and CGI powerballs being flung at each other, rather than any martial arts. It is deeply saddening to witness the continuing waste of Wu Jing's talents, as he is forced to battle such unworthy opponents as 63-year-old Wong. There is a potentially interesting idea that the magicians can pull objects out of pictures and into the real world, which allows Wu Jing to escape by articulated lorry and fight Wu Chun with lightsabres - though these are rare treats in a film largely devoid of intelligence and excitement.

It is almost unfathomable to believe that the same team responsible for bringing IP MAN to the screen would allow such a half-arsed excuse for entertainment to appear in cinemas with their names attached. MAGIC TO WIN is set for a large international release next week and is likely to draw in crowds who rightly enjoyed Yip and Wong's previous efforts. However, they stand to be sorely disappointed by this exercise in derivative frivolity, that even has the gall to poke fun at IP MAN (watch for a clip on TV featuring Donnie Yen and Carina Lau), while serving only to tarnish the resumes of all involved.

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Wilson YipTai-Li ChanEdmond WongChun WuBak-Ming WongJing WuKarena NgActionComedyFantasy

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markcDecember 3, 2011 2:39 AM

oh well, I could tell from the trailer this wouldn't be something I wanted to see. Wilson Yip doesn't necessarily need to re-team with Donnie for further success, as he made some really good films before SPL. then again, it wouldn't be the worst decision either. at least Wilson Yip will always have films like Bullets Over Summer and SPL to be remembered for, not to mention Ip Man! I'm confident that he'll make something decent again one day though.

J HurtadoDecember 3, 2011 2:41 AM

But there's MAGIC!

James MarshDecember 3, 2011 2:45 AM

You mean Meh-gic...

QinlongDecember 3, 2011 5:48 AM

It boggles the mind how so many HK filmmakers are capable of the best and the worst (Tsui Hark, Andrew Lau, Benny Chan, Wilson Yip)...

DooKDecember 4, 2011 9:21 PM

The major production companies is always ruining for Hong Kong directors and actors. Look back at Derek Yee's pre-2007 output and compare that to now... The man hasn't been himself since. Wilson is boarded and I fear other directors may fall into the same trap. Dante Lam looks to be next.

QinlongDecember 5, 2011 5:01 AM

I don't really agree... Wilson Yip has made terrible films before (White Dragon, Dragon Tiger Gate), and Derek Yee post-2007 output is fine, with the great Shinjuku Incident and the good Triple Tap. The great Magician looks great, too.

DooKDecember 5, 2011 5:39 AM

To each his own. To me, Derek Yee used to make his films particularly in ways that nobody else couldn't. Films like One Nite In Mongkok and Protege showed it clearly. With later films, it's more of a commercial approach in his content and with less quality to them. Not to say Shinjuku Incident was terrible but it just didn't measure up to anything Yee did in the past. Then he did Triple Tap, something that was meant for someone else. And now he's coming out with The Great Magician produced by the same production company that was behind Triple Tap... But we'll see.


Derek Yee ain't a bad director by any means. He just hasn't interested me for a while now since Protege.