Directed by Derek Yee (Protege, Shinjuku Incident), the renowned director works his magic in The Great Magician with the support of three formidable actors, Tony Leung, Lau Ching Wan and Zhou Xun.
In the year 1916, General Yuan Shi-Kai has just passed on and the Japanese arrives. Set amidst the chaos, magician Zhang Xian (Tony Leung) captures the attention of local warlord, Lei Daniu (Lau Ching Wan), who hopes to use the former's skills to win the heart of his unwilling seventh concubine Liu Yin (Zhou Xun). The bully warlord also has Zhang's mentor imprisoned. However, what the warlord doesn't know is that Liu Yin is Zhang's fiance. To save the day, Zhang along with his troupe plans to kidnap General Lei in return for political prisoners and to win his childhood lover back.
Just by reading its synopsis, The Great Magician looks like a rip-off of Hollywood's "The Illusionist" with the same mix of romance and revenge thrown in although the film is adapted from Zhang Haifan's novel of the same name. But the strong performance of both lead actors, Leung and Lau, will set the film apart from the rest.
As General Lei with a dramatic flair, Lau has almost as much showtime as Zhang Xian – a great balance since both seasoned actors are given even chances to shine, which they did brilliantly. Lau is delightfully entertaining while Leung manages the tough role of a charming yet serious enough hero of the day. Not surprisingly, especially since The Great Magician marks the veteran Leung's 75th film.
One will also be pleasantly surprised by the humour – six wives fighting for one's man's love – as well as the trickery involved. In all, The Great Magician is an engaging and visually-arresting film with magic, romance and comedy all thrown in that would prove to be a fun, enjoyable weekend watch.