"Kong Wah-I have missed him as the actor I have known for so so long and finally here he is again, glorious performance."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Yong Zheng / Lee Tai Ha - Kong Wah
Lui Sei Leung - Maggie Cheung Hor Yee
Rachel Shum Yat Ngoi - Melissa Ng Mei Hang
Shum Siu Hong - Paul Chun Pui
Frankie Shum Yat Lai - Gilbert Lam Wai Sun
Heung Yeung - Lau Ka Fai
Ko King - Joseph Cheng King Kei
Tina Shum - Halina Tam Siu Wan
Hugo Shum Yat Chung - Anthony Tang Ho Kwong
Brian Shum Yat Hau - Cheung Chi Kwong
Kwok Ha Mong - Kwok Fung
Szeto Yuk Ming - Akina Hong Wah
Po Chu - June Chan Kei
Ko King - Joe Cheng Gin Kei
Po On - Jack Wu Lok Yin
Yiu Yim Fong - Chan Ka Yee
YiuYim Fun - Chan Man Na
Marco - Mark Kwok Yiu Ming
Kenneth - So Chi Wai
(taken from emspace)
I love the Chinese title, Gau Mm Ji Juen. At first sounds like The Emperor but yet it sound like The King of Nine To Five. The English title is also a very clever title.
Emperor Yong Zheng and Lui Sei Leong from the Qing Dynasty accidentally time traveled to modern day Hong Kong and became involved in a family internal struggle to control a company, not unlike Yong Zheng having to fight his brothers for the throne.
I missed the first 2 episodes so I basically missed how Lui Sei Leong tried to assassinate the King and how whilst on a ship they encountered a very bad weather and some sort of Tsunami and ended up in modern day Hong Kong and how they adapted to modern day Hong Kong in one episode. By the time I started watching, Yong Zheng had short hair, became Lee Tai Ha and Sei Leong met Frankie. Somewhere along the way Tai Ha took Sei Leong in to live with him and his adopted family (cousins) who thought Yong Zheng was indeed their cousin Lee Tai Ha from China.
By this time Tai Ha had gotten used to the fact that Qing Dynasty was no longer there, he was no longer the emperor and he had to find a jo to sustain himself. So he got involved in this company that develops housing projects, buildings and sell materials for such purposes. It's not a ig company but big enough for internal power struggle between the children of Mr Sum, a very cunning but understanding businessman. Mr Sum has 4 sons and 1 daughter that is;
Brian the eldest married to an equally cunning and small minded wife, Tina in charge of the marketing dept whose wife is in charge of Human Resource dept
Hugo, the second and probaby the smartest amongst all for his cool and calm manner when dealing in businesses but had two major flaws; he is arrogant and he is gay in charge of sale dept
The first two sons are by the first wife.
Frankie is the third son and probably the most mild mannered and least ambitious son in charge of logistics. Unfortunately he is destined to turn evil because every TVB series needs a villain to justify the goodness in other characters, like every modern TVB series needs a homosexual character (in this series we have three) to justify the tolerance and loving family that will eventually happily accept the gay couple (not that I am complaining). This son is by the second wife.
The fourth is a daughter, that is Rachel, a level headed, hard working and gentle person whom the father dislikes because he blamed her for the death of the youngest son, Lawrence who happens to be his most favourite many many years ago. These two are by the third wife, a gentle person who is also the sister of the second wife and former secretary of Mr Sum.
Then Lee Tai Ha appeared and changes their lives forever.
Lee Tai Ha using his knowledge and experience he garnered from his turbulent years as the Emperor decided to assist Frankie to the top of the position because he thought Frankie was a gentleman and old Mr Sum, such a nice old man must have a worthy successor. Along the way however Frankie became extremely jealous when everybody credited Lee Tai Ha for giving Frankie the power he now enjoyed and in one moment of jealousy Tai Ha became so disappointed with Frankie that he decided to quit his job. Meanwhile Sei Leong was employed as Mr Sum's bodyguard and who by now was very fond of Tai Ha when she set her prejudices aside tried to persuade Tai Ha to stay and to rekindle the friendship between Frankie and Tai Ha but Frankie was not sincere and Sei Leong thought Tai Ha wa seing ungrateful. But Mr Sum persuaded Tai Ha to stay and at that moment Tai Ha who helped mend the relationship between Mr Sum amd Rachel realised Rachel could be the successor as she had the makings of a very good businesswoman. So Tai Ha decided to stay and assist her. By now everybody ganged up against Tai Ha and Rachel whilst Frankie grew even more malicious when he realised Sei Leong was in love with Tai Ha. Tai Ha at the meantime was asked by Mr Sum to woo Rachel who accepted Tai Ha as her boyfriend. But Tai Ha was also in love with Sei Leong and since being the olden day person he is, he thought he could have both but both forced him to choose but he was unable to do so as he loved both and both are not willing to let go.
At the meantime Frankie discovered Hugo and Kenneth were lovers and used this to threaten them to hurt Rachel. When Sei Leong found out, she became very disappointed with Frankie and broke up with him. At the meantime Hugo and Kenneth became so guilt ridden with what they had tried to do that they decided to help Rachel and be truthful about their relationship but knew their father would not be able to accept that fact. True enough, Mr Sum found out about the extortion by Frankie and also how Frankie tried to pin the corruption charge on Rachel that he disowned Frankie publicly. It was because of Frankie's deception that the family actually grew closer and for once the remaining siblings worked together as one to topple Frankie.
But Frankie did not let go. In fact he ganged up with another guy, the son of an even more richer man to take over his own father's company, he succeeded and became the Chairman but not for long as the son's father came out and corrected the situation. So once again Frankie lost and again he went in search of the reason why he kept losing to Tai Ha and then he realised Tai Ha was Yong Zheng and tried to reveal the truth to everybody. Naturally everybody believed Frankie but because Tai Ha and Sei Leong were always honest and truthful with them, they all felt it was an honour to have such distinguished guests in their home.
When all attempts failed, Frankie decided to dig some grave and ended up falling and hitting his head on a stone and fell into a deep coma.
Will he wake up? Will he have more devious plans? Will Tai Ha and Sei Leong and Rachel all love happily ever after and return to the olden days? The answers are at the bottom of this review.
This is probably one of the best acted and one of the most intelligently scripted drama (in terms of dialogue) from TVB I have ever seen if not for the really horrible last episode. Of course this series had to end in some way or another but how it ended defies logic. In fact how Yong Zheng and Sei Leong could travel to modern day HK is even more logical than the how this series ended. I shall explain but let's start with the good stuff.
I like time travel stories, especially one where there is a comparison and similarity between the olden days and modern times. Here we have two very interesting characters that I am sure everybody heard of in those Qing Dynasty series and stories.
Yong Zheng was often portrayed as ruthless and at times cruel Emperor. But this series presented a more real and practical Yong Zheng who didn't kill his father for the throne nor did he kill his brothers. This Yong Zheng was actually chosen y his father to succeed the throne and he actually worked with his heart and soul to sustain his empire. This is one fact that Yong Zheng as Lee Tai Ha loved to boast about, because he was proud of his achievements in the face of such adversities. So imagine if he became involved in a modern day power struggle. The context is the same, the company being the empire, old Mr Sum is like his father Kang Xi, the sons were like his own brothers and whoever became Chairman would in effect become the King of the empire. To Tai Ha that power struggle was all too easy but more personal. To see how he used his wit, his knowledge and his analytical mind to solve the devious plots levied against him were pure joy. Truth be told, I love this Lee Tai Ha and his kingly persona. He was a natural born leader. I find him interesting and very intelligent, so it was no big wonder that two women, one an enemy and the other who disliked him at first could fall so deeply in love with him.
Lee Sei Leong herself is caught in a predicament. She grew up trained to kill the Emperor and yet in the modern times she fell for him. She felt no guilt for loving him because after knowing him for such a long time, she realised her ideologies were all twisted, he was indeed a good king and now a good man.
Some may find it hard to accept how these two can adapt to changes so fast, and how Tai Ha could know the next step of the enemy when the enemy was just planning his moves. I don't think there should be an issue in this aspect because;
1. Chinese are naturally very good in assimilating to their current situation, more so an intelligent King and a determined warrior woman.
2. Tai Ha as Yong Zheng was involved in bigger power struggle that involved life and death so to him this company struggle is small issue.
3. They both realised they can never go home so might as well accept their fate.
4. He's Yong Zheng for Heaven's sake!
What I love about this series are the many tiny little moments of sheer intelligence, purely dialogue based. A few of my favourites are...
1. Mr Sum found it hard to accept that Hugo was gay. So he refused to talk nor see his son. But as Tai Ha said to Mr Sum, "Would you rather have a son you don't like that much or lose your son altogether?". Of course Tai Ha talked about homosexuality as something in our genes, something I do not agree with but it was in a way a very profound scene of a father coming to terms with his son's own choice of lifestyle.
2. the interaction between Tai Ha and Sei Leong, from fighting to bickering to becoming friends to becoming lovers. The progression is very nice to watch and yes, I love the ending that they got together. I was actually hoping they got to go back to Qing Dynasty but that would be far too illogical.
3. the earlier scene where Sei Leong still wanted to kill Tai Ha in the modern times. Then Tai Ha showed her a tape about Chinese history and as Sei Leong quietly watched the tape, Tai Ha in his gentle kingly voice reasoned with her and said; "The Ming Dynasty fell because of your inept Emperor, it was going to fall whether we enter the gates or not. In fact Qing Dynasty fell after a few hundred years of rule and China became the Republic of China. Why are we still fighting when it was all in the past". The dialogue was something like that but I remembered watching that scene and watching Sei Leong's reaction (teary eyed and very quiet) and I thought it was such a profound and excellent scene. I thought it was even better when it comes to explaining how Ming fell, how Qing fell than the entire nonsensical Perish In The Name Of Love could explain.
4. small scenes, such as Frankie and Tai Ha walking on the street and Tai Ha saw Sei Leong who was climbing a wall and startled and fell face down on a pool of very muddy water. She was actually exercising and learning kung fu! Very funny scene.
5. One more that I remember, was when Sei Leong fought a few thieves and she still could fight but not as great as before as she was slowly losing her kung fu power thing, I don't know how to explain. Anyway, she ran away almost tried to jump into the sea and crying that she wants to die and all and Tai Ha stood before her and said to her; "If you want to die what about me? I was the Emperor, the son of Heaven above all men, I had my kingdom at my feet and now, I am a nobody, a lowly despatch boy insulted by many." True. So Sei Leong stopped complaining. Very good scene.
6. One very funny scene where Ko King said; "You see, people with high IQ will lead the finance dept whilst people with high EQ will assist those to earn more money but since I have neither IQ nor EQ, I am not a leader and I am not rich". Something like that. How true!
And many more scenes. I call them little scenes because this series has a lot of such little scenes that totally take your breath away for its sheer brilliance in acting, in dialogue and in its deep meaning.
Now the problem with this series, I believe the only problem was how it ended. After so many things happened, Frankie establishing himself as the real jerk in the family, by episode 20 this series must end. Frankie must meet a horrifying end but because he was so nice in the beginning, to appease Gilbert Lam's fans, he must not die. So he become insane. I like the fact that when he became insane, he thought he was Yong Zheng. This explains why he hated Tai Ha so much. He was extremely jealous of Tai Ha. All his life he was the third son, the nice one, everybody walked all over him and he didn't complain because he knew he was insignificant. One day a very intelligent man convinced him that he was more than insignificant, he was capale and noble. So when he tasted success, he became jealous when everybody said this success was due to someone else. In a moment of unreasonable and total blindness, he did what he did to show to everybody, especially Tai Ha that he could survive without him. But the more he did the more obvious that Frankie did not have the makings of a good leader. It's sad actually. In the end I believe Frankie wanted so much to be just like Tai Ha who was actually Yong Zheng that when he became insane, he became Yong Zheng in his mind. I don't see Frankie as a villain because he is probably the worst and failed villain in TVB history. Nothing he did was ever successful in harming anybody but to push aside Tai Ha who helped him and by choosing to listen to what the little people say and became as jealous as he was, Tai Ha was right to abandon him because he did not have a noble heart. I pity Frankie though. He would have been happier as a nice nobody than a successful nobody. Yes, a nobody all the way but look what success could do to a nobody who had no talent to lead? Frankie is the perfect example. Some people are meant for being ordinary whilst people like Rachel and Tai Ha are meant to be extraordinary, it's all in the attitude and perception, not what others think of him but what this person think of himself. Frankie looks to me is like the most insecure man one could meet. Still pity him though.
Anyway where was I? Yes, the way it ended. I have no complaints about the characterisation of the various characters, however cliche they may be. I have no complaints about the dialogue either but I absolutely am disgusted with how all that lead to such a blahhhhh ending. Reminded me of Square Pegs. The last episode was the worse. How on Earth could revealing Tai Ha as Yong Zheng help Frankie? He wanted everybody to view them as monsters, to be dissected and all. But who will believe him apart from his family? How can he really think that the scientific society will buy his theory about time travel except for the few? Even if they believed, does he really think people will really cut Yong Zheng up and study him? His family certainly believed Frankie since Yong Zheng and Sei Leong admitted it all. Of course you may wonder how come logical people could believe in such absurd stories? Simple. There was nothing in Tai Ha and Sei Leong's integrity to doubt what they said as they had always proven themselves as realiable and honest. Since you don't disbelieve them, you must believe them. And then we have Frankie going to an unmarked grave to dig some corpse. One scene said he was going to dig up Kang Xi's bones for DNA purposes. Yeah right! As if Kang Xi was buried in an unmarked grave. And come the graveyard scene, we have a different story. He was there to dig up the real Lee Tai Ha who was somehow buried in a grave that was marked 1800 something. And we have Frankie running around trying to kill Tai Ha with his spade and ended up falling head first onto the stone marking marked as 1800 something. There must be some significance in this stone since the camera zoomed into it. But what is the significance? And then the final ending of Sei Leong and Tai Ha traveling to Africa or somewhere to help the poor. I'd rather they get back to Qing Dynasty because the ending is ridiculous. The nice thing was the end credits showed the earlier scene where he was the Emperor in the olden days, looking intelligent, wise and handsome, which made me realise I probably missed some of the best parts since I love to watch Kong Wah in Qing attire. So basically my complaint is the end of the story. I don't understand it all.
But for all my complaints of the lousy ending, I must give my compliments to the performances in this series, very well acted by all. A few I must comment on ...
I have missed him as the actor I have known for so so long and finally here he is again, glorious performance. He is so funny and yet so kingly, so chauvinistic and yet so masculine, so stubborn and yet so wise, so determined and yet so gentle. It is very believable why Sei Leong could for fall this enemy because as Frankie gets worse and worse, Tai Ha gets better and better. In the end we all know who is the stronger and better man. Though the way he walks may be over the top, but I believe there is a purpose for him doing so. He is always so in character and I totally believe, despite his modern day clothing and even when he was in jeans that he was Yong Zheng. Later when he wore the rather traditional chinese type of coat, I must say, Kong Wah is older now but still looks quite dashing and would look much better if he had gained some weight. His performance is impeccable and I love the earlier scenes where he walked the way he walked, slowly, one step at a time and looking at his colleagues, like a King would over his subjects. Yet he was just a despatch boy! But he carried himself so well. I love the way he drank from a cup, the way he pointed, the way he stared, all very olden day costume drama period type of man. It's the attention to such minute details that sets him apart from all the other actors.
I also love the fact that from episode one till the last episode, he spoke almost in classical dialogue, never wavering from his mannerism and the words that one would expect from someone from the Qing Dynasty. I do not know how accurate that could be but to me it is authentic enough. Put it this way, the way he speaks and the words he spoken were more authentic that let's say, Perish In The Name Of Love where the timeline is in Ming Dynasty. What I find most brilliant about his performance is his mannerism, although a bit over the top, but nothing unexpected. A brilliant performance. Now I just wish TVB will actually produce a serious drama about Yong Zheng as per the history in real life and as narrated in this series. I am dying to see his interpretation of probably one of the most misunderstood and slandered Emperor in Chinese history.
Almost 99% of this series she is so underdressed, or shall I say dressed very simple and ordinary. And yet I truly believe Maggie Cheung has this perfect flawless skin, nice figure, rosy cheeks and overall very classic look. She does look glamorous even in the most ordinary clothes and in this series, she gets to wear one fantastic looking white qipao and dare I say, gorgeous. The only two other person who can fight her for the title of most classic beauty look are Melissa Ng (always very elegant looking but at times cold looking) and Hong Wah (absolutely gorgeous, feminine and elegant looking). If up to me, I will say three women also that gorgeous. Anyway her performance.
Some has complained she gave a very ordinary performance. I beg to differ. I rarely enjoy her performance because she is always the stubborn unreasonable one. In here she is still the stubborn unreasonable one, but cute as well. I love the scene where she appeared for her first day at work as Mr Sum's bodyguard and the costume she wore was hilarious. To her that was like her most expensive costume but yes, she looked silly but only a credible actress could walk away looking silly for 5 minutes and thereafter to the viewers that costume is no big deal. I find her acting and the way she spoke and her mannerism all very olden day like, and she carried herself like a lady warrior. Her chemistry with both Gilbert Lam and Kong Wah is wonderful but I feel she has a special bond with Kong Wah and they do look compatible. The scene, I think towards the end she cried whilst eating when she realised she was in love with the King as the King spoke to her gently, I thought that was good acting. Then at the end when she gave herself to the King, and she quietly said "Tonight I will stay with you", that was quite romantic. I did believe at that moment she loved him that much to give herself to him without a promise of tomorrow. What I like about this pair is they're not like in your face you know, like "LOOK! THEY'RE IN LOVE!". Their love is subtle and yet always there. And I find Maggie Cheung's acting refreshing and engaging. As always she could have been better but as long as I am not annoyed with her, I think that's great performance.
I do believe Melissa Ng in real life has little sense of humour and I doubt I will find her interesting when I meet her in person because I have met her in person and I find her hardworking but utterly boring. She has a personality somewhere, since people do like her but somehow her performance always lack that personality. Like Rachel. I like her Rachel who is level headed, cool, calm and ever hardworking. She also looks as elegant as ever, though a bit unapproachable in my humble opinion. So you may say, "Funn get on with it!". Ok, her acting as always is credible but I am beginning to be a bit bored watching her because like I said, she looks boring. Her Rachel is boring. I hope to see Melissa in a villain type of role, maybe that would make her interesting. Anyway she looks the most compatible with Kong Wah, apart from Anne Heung. Pity he's married and rumour has it, she is married but not to each other.
I always thought he looked sissy, but well, he looks very healthy in here, and talks a bit effeminate. But I will call that gentleness. Anyway, his performance is wonderful. I totally believe that a good guy like Frankie could be so bloody annoyingly irritating towards the end with his manic laughter and crazy eyes. This is what I call good actor. Ever notice those from ATVs are good actors to start with? Maybe except for Annie Man who gets worse and worse. A pity though that in ATV he was the big brother and in TVB, he had to be the unreasonable villain who even does not qualify to be a villain.
I must talk about her because she is so pretty in here. My sister and mother met her face to face and took some pictures of her when they were in Hong Kong. I asked them; "Was she tall?" and they said no, "Was she thin", they said she has a great figure, "Was she pretty?" and they said she has flawless skin and very beautiful, "Was she friendly?" and they said she was very friendly and she looked very elegant though in simple clothings. Classy lady they said and from her pictures, I would say I agree with them. I have always thought that Hong Wah is a very capable and interesting actress to watch, a pity she is always in secondary roles. In here she plays a lesbian and I do believe her anguish when Rachel rejected her Sito. Wonderful performance.
Anthony Tang & So Chi Wai
I must say this first; when Anthony appeared in this series wearing a white with black stripes gusti type of work out costume, I sensed something gay about him. I still can't get that image out of my head. Of course this series has loads of cliches about male homosexuals, like they always dress the best (pink, bright blue shirts, impeccable dress sense), always exercising, has great taste in food and wine, best of friends with their ex-wives, works in an artistic profession and walks miles apart but could see the love in their eyes.
Hugo and Kenneth is my most favourite couple in this series for their devotion to one another. Can't quite forget the scene where in the VCD they were half naked on bed and hugging each other. Kudos to the actors for such a brave performance. I love the scene where Hugo could not confront his father about his sexuality and was thinking of moving out of HK to France (hmm...shouldn't that be San Francisco?) and Kenneth, who has a very successful career in HK looked at Hugo and said quietly that "I will follow you to France" and the way they looked at one another was pure love. We all know one actor is happily married and the other probably has a steady girlfriend. I admire their professionalism and their wonderful performance. Love this couple!
Halina Tam and Cheung Chi Kwong
Probably the most conniving and laziest couple in this series. They share a great comic chemistry between one another. Halina Tam gave one of her best performance in this series and certainly a highlight in her acting career, as a busybody who holds an iron grip on her coward of a husband.
Cheung Chi Kwong on the other hand gave an impeccable performance as the useless son, brother and husband who redeemed himself towards the end. I love the fact that Mr Cheung could play so many types of roles, from professionals to ordinary people, nice people to useless husbands, the only time he faltered a bit was as a romantic novelist in Ups And Downs In The Sea Of Love. Other than that he was always excellent.
I was watching this series where he played this Sum family uncle to "sails where the wind blows" and I thought to myself how much I hated this hypocrite. Then at the same time I was watching Vigilante Force and there he played a very happy go lucky nice senior cop and I thought how much I like him. This actor can play any character. Excellent performance.
Chun Pui and his 3 wives
What more can I say? What more I haven't said about the great Chun Pui? I do not know the names of the actresses who played his 3 wives but let's just say, wonderful performances.
Wonderful performance, especially "Szeto But" himself, Cheng King Kei who plays Ko King. Very funny. The only person who gave such a theater-ish performance (read: Over the top and not real) is June Chan, especially when she goes crying about her husband being unfaithful to her. The camera just stayed put showing her face for the longest of time, and the more I saw, the more I am convinced she is those art house movie actresses, who acts so much and yet nothing real come from it. Very bad performance and I hate her character for being so darn unreasonable to Ko King.
I saw so many well known secondary actors during the flashback/imaginary scenes of the Qing time, I was very excited to see them and yet disappointed because I knew I missed the first 2 episodes which would have shown more. From the themesong sequence and the final song credit in the last episode, I regret to say I missed probably the most expensive looking scene in a TVB series where we see Kong Wah as the King and many many many many many many people.
The themesong sung by Kong Wah. At first hearing, not good. As time goes by, I began to enjoy the lighthearted music. I just wished a proper singer have sung the song instead of actors doing the singing, thus butchering the song. Kong Wah should stick to acting.
Except for the big boo-boo in the last episode, I find this series witty, thought provoking, funny, sentimental, romantic, everything one would expect from an entertaining and well scripted series. Overall the dialogue is realistic, the performances wonderful and the plot interesting ( I am a sucker for anything Qing Dynasty and Emperors). If the series have ended the way it started that is consistent, interesting and though defies logic but still probable, it would have gotten full marks from me. The fact is the series ended horribly. The ending gave no justice to the entire series but well, nowadays I can't expect perfection. So I'll take it as it is. This is a definite must watch for Kong Wah and Maggie Cheung fans and those who likes something different.
The Ending Revealed
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Frankie woke up but became mad, thinking he was Yong Zheng. In fact he was happier that way. Tai Ha left with Sei Leong to travel the world whilst Rachel remained their best friend. The whole family now worked together to run the company and nope, Tai Ha and Sei Leong never got back to Qing Dynasty.