Friday, August 7, 2015

"Master of Destiny" Review

Why I started this series and managed to get through half of it can be chocked up to "I have too much time right now." By the time I got midway through, the series did get more juicy with Hawick's prison story line, so I thought "Eh, might as well finish it." Clearly, I should've used up my time watching something else. Wong Jing may have some iconic Hong Kong films under his belt, but he has either lost his touch, or just does not know how to write for television anymore.

First off, I'd like to say that I do not mind a mixture of Hong Kong and mainland China actors. There is a loss of familiarity, but just the idea of casting both does not bother me. Unfortunately, the mainland actors cast in this series ranged from adequate at best to cringe worthy at worst, and the poor dubbing further ruins everyone's performances.

Natalie Meng benefits from being the main source of comedic relief in an otherwise incredibly soapy series. Her (or the dubber)'s voice can be irritating and babyish, and she is beyond annoying in the beginning before marrying Edwin's character. However, I liked Lai Yiu Fa's bluntness in the later episodes. With all the family drama and scheming, it was refreshing to see someone just saying it like it is. She's also the only one to have any decent chemistry with her male costar since both were portraying more playful characters.

Other than poor acting, the rest of the female characters, other than Liza's, are written to be unlikable or sloppily written.

Zhao Xiaolu is probably the least offensive of the mainland actresses and quite pretty and sweet as "Suk Han," but has barely anything to do besides hopelessly pine for Kenny Wong's Cho Chi Wang. Kimmy Tong is irritating to watch as Cho Hau Yee, who also spends her time pining over one of the Cho brothers. Michelle Hu as "Poon Siu Kei" probably has the meatiest female character and managed to even become someone worth sympathizing for after an unpleasant entrance into the series, but is abruptly sent to prison later and not seen again until the finale. Don't even get me started on Monica Mok's villain character "Song Chi Wah," who spends the whole series plotting to take over Xin Han Li only to suddenly drop it all and redeem herself.

Knowing Hawick Lau is a well-known leading actor in mainland China, I was disappointed and expected more from him. Hawick isn't terrible, but he's by no means great, and it looks like the Botox he's received makes it hard for him to emote at times. While he is certainly more interesting to watch as "Cho Chi Yuen" when he becomes manipulative and harsh, he mostly makes the same cold and aloof facial expressions.

Kenny Wong is also mostly uninteresting and at times wooden as Chi Wang, but even further weighed down by a poorly written character. Chi Wang is the most likable brother in the first few episodes, being the most responsible and levelheaded. However, he quickly becomes the stupidest, falling under the spell of Song Chi Wah. What annoys me most is he is portrayed as an overall good and conscientious guy, yet seems to not be bothered one bit that he is obviously cheating on his wife. Kenny's acting may not be anything special, but it is the wishy-washy writing of Chi Wang that presents the most issues.

Edwin Siu delivers the strongest and most natural performance of the brothers, but unfortunately also has the least to do and the least screen time. At this point, the guy can portray these useless, lazy, and talkative characters in his sleep, so can we please give him a new challenge?

Angie Chiu's character was unnecessary and did not culminate into anything major, turning out to just be a recurring guest star. There was little screen time and acting challenge for her, which made me wonder if Angie only agreed to take part in the series to just have some fun acting again and collect a paycheck.

In an otherwise poorly acted series, Liza Wang actually offers a performance different from her others. There's still snippets of the sassiness she is known for, although much more subtle, but overall Kwan Yeuk Nam is a much more serious character who is smart and strong without being neither too calculating or too nice. Liza did very well with her dramatic scenes.

The plot is full of cliched and soapy story lines, but to a certain extent this makes it occasionally funny (albeit in an unintended way) and fun to poke fun at (also unintended). The series does become more entertaining after Hawick is sent to prison and subsequently acquitted, but overall it is still a mediocre series. As poor as the writing is though, the most irritating aspect of "Master of Destiny" is still easily the mix of original Cantonese audio and dub. I finished this series because at the time I had nothing else to watch, but next time I will just go read or rewatch an old series.

Rating: 2 stars


  1. Kudos to you for finishing that drama!

    1. Haha thanks, but that probably says more about how I don't have a life and too much time on my hands...