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Original Title:
Hoi sam mo fa

Hong Kong 2011

Comedy, Action, Fantasy

Wilson Yip

Karena Ng
Raymond Wong
Wu Chun
Jacky Wu Jing
Yan Ni
Louis Koo

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Magic to Win

Story: Professor Kang (Raymond Wong) is a magician who by accident transfers his powers to the young student Macy (Karena Ng). The young girl uses her newly acquired powers to help her volleyball team finally getting a victory and after that she sets up a club along with her friends that - for cash in return - helps other people to be successful as well. However, suddenly Macy is approached by the ecologist Ling Feng (Wu Chun) who has lost his memory and to make matters worse is also invisible to everyone except her. The reason for that is the magician Bi Yewu (Wu Jing), who tries to unify all the elements of magic in order to obtain the power of travelling through time. He takes possession of his colleagues power one after another until there is only Macy left. But professor Kang can be of help to her with some useful information and Ling Feng proves to be useful as well in averting the upcoming catastrophe.

Review: "Magic to Win" is one hell of a slapstick fest. That much was already apparent in the trailer, but somehow there was still some hope that the film wouldn't become as embarrassing as it seemed at first. Sadly, that was some false hope. Yet, it is still difficult to believe that the same director who brought "Ip Man" to the big screen can really be capable of delivering such rubbish. It may be possible that Wilson Yip simply wanted to have some fun with this movie and his long-term producer Raymond Wong being cast in one of the leading roles surely underlines this, but in the end the movie doesn't just scratch the border to awkward nonsense but has surpassed it by far. Because of this it is difficult to find anything likeable about the movie at all.

However, you have to give the film some credit for featuring some nice special effects. The light effects and the different elements are brought to screen quite well and are first grade especially considering that this is a Hong Kong production. A few more ideas how to effectively make use of them would have been nice, but I don't want to criticize anything here as well as there is enough room for that in other areas. Still, it has to be questioned why all of this effort has to go down the drain, too, thanks to cheap homages. One example is the lightsaber duel (!) between Wu Chen and Wu Jing, which is incredibly boring. There are thousands of better hobby videos to be found on the internet. This is even the more distressing since Wu Jing, also to be seen in the outstanding "SPL" which was shot by Wilson Yip as well (!), is an exceptionally gifted martial artist!

There is nothing to make out of the director's true talent anywhere here. The first half hour is spent solely on throwing in bad jokes, the very dominant soundtrack is supposed to stress the happy, uplifting mood and in the face of all the embarrassing scenes the viewer simply wants to sink into the ground. The unbelievably shallow characters aren't doing anything to make things go uphill. The girls in the movie are prostitutes with the intellect of a 8-year old who sell themselves to the highest bidders and even very early on Macy is at some point getting on our nerves anyway. Her actions aren't comprehensible, but the screenplay isn't doing any efforts to flesh out some real characters in the first place, so no surprise there. This leads to the strange fact that of all people Wu Jing is the most charismatic guy even though (or because!) his character gets the least screen time.

The story of "Magic to Win" doesn't deserve to be called that way, anyway. Where does the magic come from, why doesn't anyone in the world notice it or why isn't anyone flabbergasted when seeing it in action, exept of a small aha-moment? These are all questions you just shouldn't be asking. After all, the screenplay also isn't accurate when it comes to chronology and at some point you even have to ask yourself if their actually was a script involved at all or maybe just a main idea, which to be honest no one will have put more effort into than a stray thought. You are frequently tempted to just hit the stop button but towards the end the "humor", if you would like to call it that way, takes more of a backseat and we get some more action which can be at least somewhat entertaining.

If it weren't for the garish colors of the magic effects there wouldn't be anything in "Magic to Win" that would keep you from falling asleep. It is ok that Wilson Yip wanted to make a more lighthearted movie for a change but what he delivers is entertainment on the lowest level imaginable. The pictures might look nice but this makes the quality gap between them and the content of the film become even more apparent. Popcorn-entertainment doesn't have to be completely absurd and ridiculous. And if it is it just doesn't need to be embarrassing as well. If you don't get the chance to see "Magic to Win" you surely haven't missed anything.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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