Cast (partial list): Eddie Kwan (關禮傑), Kathy Chow (周海媚), Yeung Tak Shi (楊得時), Money Lo (盧敏儀), Dickson Lee (李家聲), Rain Lau (劉玉翠), Jimmy Au (歐瑞偉), Josephine Lam (林其欣), Wang Wai (王偉), Derek Kwok (郭政鴻), Law Lok Lam (羅樂林), Liza Wang (汪明荃), Law Kar Ying (羅家英)
This was one of the few 'major' series from the early 90s that I actually had not seen yet. I remember watching TVB's 24th Anniversary Gala (1991) and this series was featured in it (which makes sense, since it was that year's anniversary series) and at that time, I had made a note to myself to watch the series when I got the chance....that was almost 20 years ago and I just recently got around to watching it (I know, a bit late huh? Better late than never, I guess!). One of the main reasons why I wanted to watch this series was because at that time (back in the 80s / early 90s), Kathy Chow was one of my favorite actresses (she still is even now, though I haven't really kept up with her much since she switched her career to the Mainland) and I was interested in seeing her ‘fresh’ pairing with Eddie Kwan (another artist from back in the 80s whom I like).
The setting of the series is the Tang Dynasty era -- however the storyline does not revolve around the Imperial palace or the emperor (or anything of that nature), which I'm happy with because I'm sort of tired of the whole Imperial palace theme thing myself. Rather, the story focuses on the experiences of the ethnic minority groups during that era and the 'oppression' that they suffered at the hands of the Han Chinese – this made the storyline quite interesting and fresh because it's definitely not often that you find this type of theme in a TVB series. The other 'unique' thing about this series is that majority of the scenes take place in the desert, which means that much of the filming was done on location in the real Tibetan outdoors rather than inside some fake studio set at TVB -- no wonder the background scenery was so gorgeous! TVB really took this production seriously because I had read that the cast and crew actually traveled to Tibet and other ethnic regions in China to do the filming back then (wow, it's hard to imagine that the notoriously cheap TVB actually took productions so seriously back then....all those ancient series that they film nowadays -- most of which take place inside a studio with fake sets -- definitely pale in comparisons!).
Overall, this series definitely fell into the “like” (aka “worth watching”) category for me, as I enjoyed the chemistry between most of the characters and the storyline was actually quite decent – most of all, I like majority of the cast, so that in itself was a big motivation for me to continue watching this series. In fact, this is actually one of those series that I don’t mind re-watching again because I enjoyed it so much the first time around. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the series was perfect because the script absolutely did have some very glaring issues with it (which I will go into later on in the review)….in general though, this is definitely a decent series that I don’t regret watching.
CAST / CHARACTERS
As I said above, one of the reasons I enjoyed this series was because of the cast, since many of them are amongst my favorites in terms of actors and actresses that I like. Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily call the cast ‘all-star’ and was actually surprised that this was an anniversary series given the fact that most of the cast members were not necessarily the most popular ones at that time (early 90s). Either way though, the casting for this series was quite decent (with the exception of a few people, that is) and if we look at it from an acting standpoint, the cast was actually quite solid!
Unlike with some of my other reviews, I’m actually going to talk about 2 minor characters in the series first because both of them were only in the first episode, so it just makes more sense chronologically (plus I don’t like either artist and their performances weren’t that great anyway, so I might as well get it out of the way).
Law Kar Ying / Liza Wang (Hung Tin Yau / Yuen So Juk) – Law Kar Ying’s character Hung Tin Yau is a local governor in the region who finds out that a fellow governor Fok Jing Wai (played by Wang Wai) has been oppressing the local ethnic tribes and killing thousands of innocent children for his own selfish gain. When he confronts Fok about the situation, he is captured and brutally killed, leaving behind his wife So Juk and their 2 children, Yat Fei and Yuet Ying. Fok captures So Juk and because he is captivated by her beauty, he tries to force her to be his wife. She relents for the sake of her children, but secretly plots to kill Fok so she can avenge the death of her husband. When that plan fails, So Juk kills herself in order to protect her innocence, since her children had already been saved by a friend of her husband’s. Pretty much for the rest of the series, the focus is on the couple’s children and how they go about avenging their parents’ deaths.
In typical fashion, TVB took the opportunity to ‘exploit’ a real life celebrity relationship by casting veteran artist Liza Wang and her boyfriend (at the time) Law Kar Ying in cameo roles as the parents of Eddie Kwan and Money Lo’s characters. Even though technically, what happens to the couple in the first episode is really the ‘catalyst’ for the rest of the events that happen in the series, I still consider the two of them only ‘minor’ characters because both of them die barely three-fourths of the way into the first episode, so their actual roles were very small.
I’m actually totally fine with Liza and Law Kar Ying having such a small part in the series because to be completely honest, their performances were horrible! I’ve never liked Law Kar Ying as an actor (don’t like him as a person either) because he always manages to come across very exaggerated and fake with his facial expressions as well as the way he recites his dialogue – his performance in this series was no exception (I wasn’t expecting much from him anyway, so ok). Liza Wang, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment – her performance in here was so unemotional and wooden (and also came across really fake) that I got annoyed just looking at her! I mean, ok, granted that I’ve never liked Liza anyway (actually, I can’t stand her at all) but really, for a veteran actress with tons of experience who was one of the top fa dans in the 1970s (and the early 1980s to some extent), I would have expected at least a decent performance from her – plus it’s not like she had that many scenes anyway, so it shouldn’t have been THAT difficult to do a decent job. (The scene where Liza’s character finds out about her husband’s horrific death was especially poorly done – after watching that scene, I couldn’t help thinking: ‘WTH? What kind of a reaction is that?’). Come on now – did they really have to cast Liza and Kar Ying in the role as the parents? They very easily could have cast another veteran couple in the same roles and they probably would have done a thousand times better! This may sound harsh, but I’m actually glad that neither Liza nor Law Kar Ying’s characters made it to the end of the episode because if they did, I’m not sure if I would have continued watching the series (obviously I don’t have much patience for that kind of stuff). Well, at least I already made a note to myself to skip the first episode the next time I re-watch this series!
Ok, now on to the REAL cast…..
Eddie Kwan (Hung Yat Fei) – As a child, Yat Fei narrowly escapes death at the hands of the evil Fok Jing Wai (played by Wang Wai) after the death of his parents and is rescued by his dad’s good friend Ngat Kut (played by Law Lok Lam), who is also the leader of the Tubo tribe (a Tibetan ethnic group). During the rescue – in which Ngat Kut gets hurt and Yat Fei gets separated from his little sister – they end up being saved by Po Chak (played by Choi Kwok Hing), the spiritual leader of a Tibetan Lama temple. At the request of Ngat Kut (who has to return to his tribe), Po Chak takes Yat Fei in and becomes his ‘sifu’, teaching him martial arts. When Yat Fei grows up, he goes off to find Ngat Kut, who tells him about the circumstances of his parents’ deaths as well as the person responsible for the killings, Fok Jing Wai. When Yat Fei initially tries to kill Fok Jing Wai (who had since been promoted to a General) but fails, he decides to capture Cheuk Mah (played by Kathy Chow) the fiancée of General Fok’s younger son Fok Ting Yuk (played by Yeung Tak Shi), and use her to go against the Fok family. What he didn’t anticipate though was that he and Cheuk Mah would eventually fall in love with each other after going through several hardships together. In a nutshell, pretty much from that point until the end of the series, the storyline revolves around Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah’s relationship as well as Yat Fei’s attempts to avenge the death of his parents and also help save the local ethnic people from being mercilessly oppressed and killed by the evil Fok family.
I’ve really got to say that Eddie Kwan did an excellent job as the ‘tragic hero’ in this series. His acting was ‘right on the mark’ in my opinion and really brought out the essence of the character Hung Yat Fei perfectly – a character who is assertive without being arrogant, compassionate without being weak, and righteous to the point of being willing to sacrifice his life for his family and friends, yet at the end of the day, he’s only human and makes mistakes just like anyone else. [One of Yat Fei’s most admirable traits is his devotion to his friends and family (his wife Cheuk Mah, his sifu Po Chak, his ‘godfather’ Ngat Kut, his good friend / buddy Ah Bo, his sister Sit Bing, etc. ] I really liked Eddie’s portrayal of Hung Yat Fei in here and truly feel that he’s a perfect fit for the role. For me, it was refreshing to see Eddie in this type of role because up until this point, most of the Eddie series that I’ve watched in the past (the ones in which he had a significant role, that is) were primarily modern or pre-modern series (in case you’re wondering, no I haven’t watched any of the famous “Zu Mountain” series that he starred in) so that’s probably why I found Eddie’s role in this series ‘refreshing’. (And yes, I will admit that I did find that Eddie looks very handsome in ancient costume!) In terms of the acting, I actually had no doubt that he would do a great job, as I’ve always found him to be quite a versatile actor with a wide range of skills. In most of the series that I’ve seen of his, the characters he portrayed were markedly different, yet he handled each role extremely well -- some of the most memorable ones for me were his portrayal of the shy, introverted, cowardly Kiu Chi Ho in “Police Cadet ‘84”, the smart, serious, suave, reserved Hong Kwun in “Battle Among the Clans”, and the brash, tough, emotional, fiery-tempered Lam Kar Wai in “The Link”. Well, now I can add another ‘favorite’ to the list – Eddie’s portrayal of Hung Yat Fei in this series!
Kathy Chow (Cheuk Mah) – Kathy’s character Cheuk Mah is a woman rom the Tubo tribe who is smart, beautiful and compassionate. When she first comes on the scene, it may seem at first that she is one of those typical weak characters who gives in to society’s conventions and doesn’t dare to be defiant. But we soon find out that there is actually a quiet persistence and courageous valor about her that sets her apart from others (she shows this persistence throughout the entire series, in almost everything she does). After she meets Hung Yat Fei and realizes that he is the man she truly loves, she does not hesitate in following her heart, even if it meant defying convention and breaking off her engagement to Fok Ting Yuk – she was a strong woman who was not afraid to love wholeheartedly, even if it meant sacrificing everything she had. Actually, I really like the way Cheuk Mah’s character was written because typically (in the TVB model that is), characters such as hers would come off as weak and pathetic (which is the type of characters I can’t stand), but hers was written completely different – to the point that it becomes easy to understand why Hung Yat Fei would fall in love with her in the short amount of time that they are together in the beginning of the series. With their personalities, both Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah actually complement each other quite well in the series (more on this piece later).
As I stated earlier in my review, Kathy is one of my favorite actresses, so it’s actually no surprise that I enjoyed her performance in this series. Kathy is one of those actresses who looks good and performs well in both modern and ancient series alike, in my opinion. Even though when she first started acting, she was somewhat typecasted into those ‘sweet good girl’ type roles, it’s definitely obvious that throughout the years, her acting has matured a lot – and she’s one of the few actresses who actually does crying scenes very well (not like many of today’s so-called actresses who make me cringe whenever they cry in a series!). Also, I’m sure most people will agree that Kathy is a truly beautiful actress when it comes to looks – it’s a shame that she didn’t film as many ancient series as she did modern ones (well, not while at TVB anyway) because she truly looks stunning in ancient costume (especially in ethnic costume, as with this series).
Eddie / Kathy pairing:
Relationship-wise, I loved Eddie and Kathy as a couple in this series! They had such awesome chemistry and all of their scenes together were so sweet and natural-looking! I liked how they were such a loving couple in the series, yet the ‘romance’ part was done tactfully with just the appropriate amount of affection without going overboard -- which is good because I can’t stand the overly ‘mushy’ romantic stuff, especially in ancient series. (I did notice that they held hands a lot throughout the series, which was actually kind of cute – and you don’t see that a lot in ancient series). As I said earlier, I found the Eddie / Kathy pairing very refreshing, especially given the fact that this was their first (and I believe only) significant pairing together as a couple. Given how endearing this couple was, it’s really too bad that the storyline involving their relationship was SO tragic – I mean, here you have such a deeply loving couple who had gone through so much hardship together and suffered as well as sacrificed so much just to be together, yet at the end they are separated forever (without giving away too much detail about the ending, basically all I’m going to say is that one of them dies at the end). Sure, it made sense the way it ended, but still, that doesn’t make it any less tragic, especially given how much I liked them as a couple. The story of their romance was already very touching, but for one of them to die in the end….I was definitely moved to tears by the end of the series!
Yeung Tak Shi (Fok Ting Yuk) – Yeung Tak Shi’s character Fok Ting Yuk is pretty much the main villain in the series. After his mother died when he was a kid, Ting Yuk was sent away by his father Fok Jing Wai, who believed that his son was bad luck and could jeopardize his life and career in the future. Even after Ting Yuk grows up and is allowed to return to his father’s side, he is still not completely accepted into the household, as his father’s preference for Ting Yuk’s older brother Ting Guai (played by Derek Kwok) is very obvious. Knowing that his father doesn’t like him, Ting Yuk tries to do everything he can to gain his father’s favor and constantly ‘battles’ with his older brother, as he feels that in terms of intelligence and physical prowess (martial arts), he is better than his brother. Ting Yuk meets Cheuk Mah by chance and, smitten by her beauty, gets her father to agree to betroth her to him (Cheuk Mah agrees to marry Ting Yuk in order to help protect her father, even though she knows she doesn’t love him). However, on the day of their wedding, Cheuk Mah is kidnapped by Hung Yat Fei and subsequently falls in love with him, which drives Ting Yuk mad. From that point on and throughout the rest of the series, Ting Yuk’s main goal is to kill Yat Fei (which would avenge his honor and help him gain his father’s favor due to the history of his father killing Yat Fei’s parents) and also get Cheuk Mah back, even if it’s against her will. Even though technically, his entire family is evil, he is actually the worst of the bunch, as he not only kills hundreds of innocent people throughout the series, he also ends up killing his own father and brother as well. Of course, such an evil person will meet his own demise in the end (typical ‘good triumph over evil’ concept), but by that time, the damage has pretty much already been done.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I thought about Yeung Tak Shi’s performance. Overall, I feel that he’s a decent actor, but I actually prefer him in ‘good guy’ roles rather than in villain roles (ironically, in his short career as an actor, he did more villain roles than good guy ones). His acting is not bad, but I just don’t feel that he is convincing enough as a villain –when he tries to do the evil laugh for instance, it sounds a bit forced, plus his facial expressions are not as strong. I think I would have been more accepting of his villain role in this series if he was the only villain and there was no one to compare to… but, unfortunately for him, he was only one of many villains in the series – and when you’ve got ‘expert’ villains such as Wang Wai and Derek Kwok in there, they definitely overshadowed him in the ‘villain’ area (both actors played a lot of villain roles throughout their careers and are extremely good at it – especially the late Wang Wai). Anyway, overall I feel that Yeung Tak Shi did a decent job in this series, though I would have definitely preferred that they cast someone else in the role (David Siu would have been PERFECT for the role!!!!).
Dickson Lee (Ah Bo) – Ah Bo is Yat Fei’s best friend from childhood and their relationship is more brothers than friends. Ah Bo is smart, practical, and always trying to find ways to make money (his dream is to open his own cattle farm…lol…silly guy!). He knows martial arts, but is not as good as Yat Fei at it because he really has no desire to become a martial arts hero – he just wants to live a happy, carefree life doing what he likes to do. With that said though, as an orphan himself, he understands how Yat Fei feels in wanting to avenge the death of his parents – and since the two of them are like brothers, Ah Bo pretty much sticks by Yat Fei’s side and helps him carry out his plans (yes, he’s basically the ‘trusty sidekick’ in the series). Later on, he meets Sit Bing (played by Money Lo), who is the daughter of the ringleader of a group of bandits and eventually develops a crush on her (though she treats him as a friend only throughout the series, until the end when they finally get together). Overall, I would say that Ah Bo is the much needed ‘comic relief’ in this series and is a fitting complement to Yat Fei’s more ‘tragic’ character.
Dickson was awesome in this series! He really made the character of ‘Ah Bo’ come alive with his portrayal -- the ‘chirpy’ personality, the ‘genuineness’ of the character (he wants to earn money, but at the same time, he wants to help out his friends and those he cares for), the ‘carefree’ personality – all made Ah Bo quite an endearing character (he was one of my favorite characters in the series). I’ve always felt that Dickson is way underrated as an actor – I’ve seen most of his performances and he’s always very solid in each role that he takes on. And he’s actually a pretty versatile actor who can portray a wide range of characters extremely well (I’ve seen him as the good guy, the villain, the trusty sidekick, the little brother, the prodigal son, etc.). It’s really too bad that he hasn’t gained more recognition for his acting or promoted much by TVB because he’s one of the few middle-aged ‘green leaf’ actors left out there nowadays who can REALLY act!
Money Lo (Sit Bing / Yuet Ying) – Sit Bing is actually Yat Fei’s long lost sister who got separated from him when she was a few years old (during Ngat Kut’s rescue of the children). At that time, a group of bandits happened to be passing by and the leader, Sit Bak Chun, decided to adopt her. Growing up, Sit Bing had no clue that she was not Sit Bak Chun’s biological daughter and it’s really not until close to the end of the series when she finds out her true identity. Her personality is typical of what one would expect growing up amongst a group of bandits – tomboyish, loud-mouthed, bossy, etc. She’s not a bad person by any means, it’s just that she can be unreasonable and stubborn at times and after awhile, it starts to get annoying (to me at least). Honestly, I sort of feel that the character of Sit Bing was the least developed one in this series – there’s really not too much to say about her except that that she’s annoying!
In terms of the acting – well, seeing that I’ve never liked Money Lo as an actress (can’t think of a single performance of hers that I actually enjoyed), it’s no surprise that I didn’t like her performance in here either. Money is definitely not a very good actress – she’s very stiff and wooden and her acting just comes across as fake and forced to me (my biggest pet peeves when it comes to watching someone act). Also, I always feel as though she is reciting her dialogue rather than interpreting and ‘acting’ it out, which is probably why there’s usually very little emotion from her. Her performance in this series was particularly annoying because I just felt like she was yelling ALL THE TIME – I mean, ok, I get that she had to be loud and obnoxious because of the environment her character grew up in, but in all honesty, she over-exaggerated it way too much! There were scenes where she didn’t have to yell, but she still did it anyway and it was freakin’ annoying – at one point, I couldn’t help cringing at the sound of her voice!
Sorry, but back in the day, Money definitely should have kept her ‘day job’ as a host rather than foray into the acting realm. She was actually quite good as a host (she’s most famous for hosting TVB’s music programs, especially JSG, as well as many of TVB’s large-scale variety shows such as the annual Anniversary Galas). Also, she actually has very good verbal skills, which is a necessary quality when you’re a host / MC (this is why I was a bit surprised at how poorly she handled the dialogue in the series). Interestingly enough, in terms of career, she actually went down a path that is very different from former artists in the industry – she became a lawyer (and a mighty successful one at that)!
Rain Lau (Sik Lan) – Sik Lan is another young woman from the Tubo tribe who lost her parents at a young age and so was ‘adopted’ by Ngat Kut as a god-daughter of sorts. In the beginning, she and Ngat Kut’s son Ba Tou (played by Jimmy Au) were supposedly a couple (well, he likes her and wants to marry her and she has some feelings for him), however after she meets Yat Fei, she is attracted by his physical prowess and develops an affinity for him. This causes her to ‘dump’ Ba Tou so she could pursue Yat Fei (interestingly enough, she was originally attracted to Ba Tou in the beginning because of HIS physical prowess…now she dumps him because she is attracted to someone else’s physical prowess – geez, talk about being superficial!!). Unfortunately for her, Yat Fei only loves Cheuk Mah and has no feelings for Sik Lan whatsoever (he pretty much treats her like a little sister). Despite Yat Fei rejecting her, Sik Lan refuses to give up and even after Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah are married (which invokes Sik Lan’s jealousy even more), she continues to scheme, constantly trying to think up ways to harm Cheuk Mah and get rid of her. When all her evil little schemes are ‘found out’ at the end, her ‘jealousy’ turns into ‘hatred’ and from that point on, she is hard set on killing Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah, even learning a deadly form of martial arts in the hopes of achieving her goal. She dies a painful, tortuous death in the end (which is kind of fitting given everything she had done).
I’ve got to say that I absolutely hated Sik Lan in this series – her character was so deplorable and despicable -- she was definitely evil to the core, even up until the moment she died. Literally everyone around her treated her so nicely (Ngat Kut treated her like his own daughter, Ba Tou treated her like a queen, Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah treated her like their sister), yet instead of showing gratification, she lets jealousy get the best of her. The worse part was when she collaborated with the evil Fok Ting Yuk to kill her own Tubo people when they were completely innocent and never did anything to harm her! For me personally, I found it sad that she had such a devoted suitor in Ba Tou – he was such a good man and so dedicated to her, yet she treated him so awful….she didn’t deserve him at all!!
I definitely have to give credit to Rain Lau for her excellent portrayal of Sik Lan – even though the character itself was absolutely loathsome, it was actually very very well-acted. Rain is an amazing actress but unfortunately, she has been hugely underutilized by TVB all these years. I mean, come on now -- with her credentials (graduated from HK Academy of Performing Arts, established film actress who won HKFA awards for Best New Artist and Best Supporting Actress) as well as her talent, she deserves way more recognition than TVB has been giving her (it’s such a shame that TVB chooses to promote stupid pageant winners who can’t even speak Cantonese correctly over talented actresses such as Rain!). It’s obvious that TVB doesn’t care about Rain because her contract with TVB expired a few months ago and no one bothered to contact her to renew (in fact, I don’t think TVB was even aware that her contract expired!! ) – so after her contract expired, she decided to join CTI. GOOD FOR HER! Though I don’t care all that much for CTI (I’m not fond of Ricky Wong at all), I’m just glad that Rain decided to leave TVB because she’s way too good for them in my opinion!
Jimmy Au (Ba Tou) – Even though Jimmy’s character Ba Tou was a bit hard-headed and stubborn and sometimes didn’t think before he acted (plus he held somewhat of a grudge against Yat Fei for most of the series because of Sik Lan and also because of the fact that his dad Ngat Kut sacrificed his own children’s lives in order to save Yat Fei and his sister when they were little), at the end of the day, he was a good, righteous man. I actually feel sorry for the way he was treated by Sik Lan – he totally did not deserve to be treated that way. I liked his character a lot and was definitely saddened when he died like halfway through the series (way too early in my opinion).
Jimmy is another talented actor whom I’ve been following since the 80s. The first series I saw of his was “The Grand Canal” and I absolutely adored him in that series (though the story has been re-made numerous times throughout the past few decades, to this day, I haven’t been able to accept any other actor playing the role of Lee Jing – goes to show how memorable his performance was in that series). Unfortunately though, in recent years, he’s been getting mostly third-fourth line roles, which is sad considering how good his acting is. Perhaps it’s because he was mostly typecasted into doing ancient series for a long period of time (yes, he does look good in ancient costume, but still…) and since TVB hasn’t done too many ancient series in the last decade, he hasn’t had very many opportunities? Well, he’s good in modern series as well, so I’d definitely like to see him participate in more series!
Josephine Lam (Chin Chin) – Chin Chin is a former prostitute with a compassionate heart who becomes good friends with Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah and helps them throughout the series to go against the Fok family. After finally earning enough money to buy her contract back from the brothel, she very easily could have gone off to live a life of freedom in another city, but instead, she decided to sacrifice herself by becoming General Fok’s lover and staying at the General’s mansion so she could be a ‘spy’ of sorts for Yat Fei. Even though she also has a crush on Yat Fei, she doesn’t act on her feelings and instead, chooses to help him save Cheuk Mah, especially during the time when Cheuk Mah is held captive at the General’s mansion. She even willingly sacrificed her life at the end in order to save Yat Fei and Cheuk Mah from falling into Fok Ting Yuk’s evil trap (that one scene where Yat Fei and Ah Bo cry when they find out about her death was very touching!). From beginning to end, Chin Chin was truly an admirable character!
Though I’ve never been fond of Josephine as an actress, I will say that she was great in this role. For once, she gets to play a ‘good’ person rather than the villainous ‘bxxch’ or some insignificant ‘vase’ character, which is refreshing to see. I actually liked her quite a lot in this series (though it definitely helped that she got one of the best roles of her career with this series). [As a side note: I had actually just finished re-watching “Rain in the Heart” prior to this one and in that series, Josephine was the villain who does all sorts of bad things to Kathy – so it’s kind of interesting that in a sense, Josephine ‘makes up for it’ in this series with all the good things she does for Kathy…(just a random related thought)…LOL].
Law Lok Lam (Ngat Kut) – Since I’ve mentioned a lot about the character of Ngat Kut above already, I won’t go into much detail here. I will say though that the character of Ngat Kut is a very honorable and righteous man – not only did he willingly sacrifice his life and that of his family in order to save the Hung family (or what was left of the Hung family), he also cared about the people in his tribe and willingly fought to free them from oppression, making that a life-long goal for himself. It comes as no surprise then that he was so well-respected and revered as a leader of his tribe.
As for the acting – well, let’s just put it this way: Law Lok Lam NEVER disappoints! So far, I haven’t watched a performance of his that I didn’t enjoy or like (even if I hated the series overall, I would still like his performance). He has always been one of the veteran actors on my favorites list (and will continue to be!).
SCRIPT / STORYLINE
Overall, I feel that the storyline had lots of potential, however it was, unfortunately, underdeveloped. In my opinion, this was one of those series that really should have been more than 20 episodes because too much of the plot was rushed to the point that certain parts of the series didn’t flow. The first third of the series was quite good and actually very well put together, but near the middle as well as the last third of the series or so, the plot sort of started to fall apart – things started happening way too quickly and as a result, some scenes really lacked the emotional element (there were a few times where I was like ‘what? That’s it?’). I don’t know for sure whether the problem with the storyline was actually due to inconsistencies in the script itself or perhaps whoever did the post-production editing on the series did a lousy job. The reason I say this is because the second half of the series was very choppy and the layout of some of the scenes was odd (almost felt like there were some parts of the scene cut out) – which leads me to think that perhaps it might be an editing issue?
One example that leans towards the ‘editing’ theory: the part in episode 16 where Cheuk Mah (Kathy Chow) is being held captive at the General's mansion by Fok Ting Yuk (Yeung Tak Shi) and Yat Fei (Eddie Kwan) is anxious to go save her: one of the scenes shows Ah Bo (Dickson Lee) trying to stop Yat Fei from going to General Fok's (Wang Wai) mansion by himself and Yat Fei's sifu suddenly comes riding toward them on a horse; he tells Yat Fei that he needs to calm down and think things through first because trying to rush into the mansion to save Cheuk Mah without any type of plan will only cost him his life. At this point, I was thinking that the next scene would show them discussing their plan or something, since that's the next 'logical' step to take, but instead, it looks like something was 'lost in editing' here because the scene suddenly cuts to show someone in black running out of the General's mansion with what appears to be a girl dressed to look like Cheuk Mah on his back and a whole bunch of people (including Fok Ting Yuk and his sifu) running after him. Meanwhile, Yat Fei and Ah Bo are already inside the General's mansion fighting the soldiers. After watching this part, I remember thinking to myself: "Um, did I miss a scene or something? How did they go from arguing while riding on horses to all of a sudden fighting soldiers?" There were actually other scenes that were the same way -- this one just seemed to stand out more.
Now don't get me wrong -- I hate slow and draggy series just as much as the next person, but I also don't like it when series go the opposite extreme and become too rushed and overly fast-paced. In my opinion, that's the biggest flaw with this particular series -- it was TOO fast-paced and rushed, especially in the second half, which made it seem to me that the producer was under time constraints and therefore was in a hurry to end the series without thinking about whether stuff made sense or not. I'm actually surprised that the series was so short and the producer / writers didn't take the time to develop the storyline more given that this was an anniversary series (um, yes, they actually spent more time and energy on anniversary series back then, unlike now) -- plus I assume that it would have been considered more of a 'grand' production given all the investment made in the 'on location' filming in the desert and such, so I would think that more time would be spent on the script as well as editing.
Ok, now that you’ve read my ‘play-by-play’ on the series, you probably don’t need to watch the series anymore, huh? JUST KIDDING!
Anyway, in terms of recommendation, I would definitely say that this is a ‘keeper’, as there are a lot of ‘positives’ about the series that, in my opinion, outweigh the ‘negatives’. If you’re the type who likes martial arts, this series definitely delivers in that area, as there are plenty of action / fighting sequences throughout the series to keep viewers engaged (in fact, if I remember correctly, there is at least one major fight scene in pretty much every episode). If you’re into the romance element, there’s the Eddie / Kathy love story, which is on the one hand hugely tragic, yet at the same time irresistibly endearing . For a little bit of comic relief (the perfect amount, not too much), there’s the interaction between Dickson and Eddie as well as Dickson and Money. And of course, there’s also the ‘family struggle’ element, which is played out throughout the course of the series by the ‘dysfunctional’ Fok family. Oh, and don’t forget, the biggest ‘attraction’ of this series – the cast and the beautiful scenery! For me, these 2 elements alone made the series worth watching (and made me able to ‘forgive’ some of the inconsistencies of the script as well as the so-so editing).
My only ‘caution’ about this series though is that it is quite TRAGIC – pretty much two-thirds of the main cast dies, most of them in a tragic manner (technically, if you count all the minor characters and ‘kelefes’ who died, the number is even greater). So if you’re not into overly tragic series, this one might be a bit too overboard for you – otherwise, if you choose to watch, definitely do NOT expect a ‘happily ever after’ ending.