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Kelly Chen and Tony Leung Ka-Fai engage in some Horseplay.
Chinese: 盜馬記
Year: 2014
Director: Lee Chi-Ngai

Claudie Chung Chun, Lee Chi-Ngai, Cheung Chi-Kwong

Writer: Lee Chi-Ngai
Action: Jack Wong Wai-Leung

Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Kelly Chen, Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Wong Cho-Lam, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Mandy Lieu, Liu Kai-Chi, Zi Yi, Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, Lai Chi-Saan, Jeannie Chan Ying

The Skinny: A great pedigree and premise fall prey to complacent execution. While you might enjoy Horseplay for its stars, the film's lack of tension and intelligence drops it down a few levels. Relaxing but needless and not as good as it should have been.
by Kozo:

The United Filmmakers Organization (UFO) used to mean something, but alas, those days are gone. Once known for quality urban comedies and dramas, the UFO name is now attached to only occasional projects from original UFO founders Eric Tsang or Claudie Chung. The latter category (i.e., produced by Chung) is where caper comedy Horseplay fits, though it also has performances from Tsang and longtime UFO starlet Kelly Chen. Also, the director is one of UFO’s original helmers, Lee Chi-Ngai, whose films Lost and Found and He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father (co-directed with Peter Chan) are still beloved today. Actually, given its cast and crew, Horseplay possesses more UFO-ness than any film since And I Hate You So back in 2000 – but that still doesn’t mean much when you see how pointless the film is. Considering its pedigree, Horseplay should be better than this.

The story concerns the theft of the Sancai Horse, also called “Saluzi”, an ancient Chinese statue that belongs to a set called the “6 Steeds of Zhao Mausoleum.” Saluzi is going up for illegal sale in Europe, but legendary thief and master-of-disguise Nine-Tail Fox (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) may attempt to steal it, while fluff entertainment reporter Ha Mui (Kelly Chen) is also in pursuit. Meanwhile, Inspector Cheung Ho (Ekin Cheng) shows up in the UK on holiday to nab Nine-Tail Fox himself (he’s failed numerous times before). Other parties are present: Oddball tag-team Mr. Round (Eric Tsang) and Mr. Yin (Wong Cho-Lam) shadow both Ha Mui and Cheung Ho, while a mysterious hitwoman (Mandy Lieu) has her sights set on Nine-Tail Fox. For the ultimate complication, Ha Mui enters into an alliance with Nine-Tail Fox, while also secretly slipping information to Cheung Ho. Who will Ha Mui ultimately side with, or will she get backstabbed first?

It would be great if the audience cared about a character betrayal, but the film’s tone nixes that. Horseplay is inordinately cheerful and light, and all its characters (save Mandy Lieu’s hitwoman) are clearly meant to be liked. The effect is fine for relaxation – the film has wonderful locations, colorful if unrealistic fashion, and a we’re-so-bohemian accordion score – but it makes for lousy tension. Horseplay lacks any danger or suspense, which is kind of a problem in a film with cops, thieves and chases. Characters are also incredibly silly. Ho Cheung seems more concerned with eating Shepherd’s Pie at his favorite UK pub than catching Nine-Tail Fox. Ha Mui is even worse; she volunteers to investigate an international crime, but acts daffy and will fret and futz over cute things at the most inappropriate of times. It’s fine that supporting characters Mr. Round and Mr. Yin are silly, but not so the main ones.

Acting ranges from agreeable to alarming. Eric Tsang and Wong Cho-Lam are fine comedy relief, and Tony Leung Ka-Fai is solid if too cutesy as Nine-Tail Fox. The role should possess more determination or complexity, but he just seems like an incredibly nice guy rather than a legendary thief. Ekin Cheng is relaxed, likable and inoffensive in his limited screen time. The weakest link is Kelly Chen. Despite her years in the biz, Chen has never blossomed into a good actor, and her forced expressions and sitcom antics occasionally stop the movie cold. Frankly, it makes no sense for Ha Mui to pursue such danger, or for other characters to depend so much on her. The film simply tries too hard to be fun. Lee Chi-Ngai seems to be going for an air of arch sophistication – like he intends Nine-Tail Fox and Ha Mui to be Asian art thief versions of Nick and Nora Charles – but he only succeeds at making every character and situation toothless.

Superficially, Horseplay is pleasant enough, and the film goes out on the right note, with closing credits that feature Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Kelly Chen and Ekin Cheng dancing and singing. That minor bit of Hong Kong star presence helps compensate a little for the lousy stuff, like the inevitable plot contortions to punish bad guys, or a detour to a Prague circus where characters solve strange RPG-like puzzles for an interminable “game”. What’s odd is that the filmmakers didn’t force Horseplay into cinemas during the Lunar New Year. It would have made complete sense, given the title (It’s the Year of the Horse!), the MacGuffin (Again, it’s the Year of the Horse!), and also the silly antics (Lunar New Year films never make sense anyway!). Whatever. Horseplay is not good but it’s also too inconsequential to unload on, so giving it a handwave and saying, “Ekin and Tony seem swell, and Kelly sure is pretty!” is probably the way to go. Critical ammunition should be reserved for real battles. (Kozo, 3/2014)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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