Chess Warriors

Reviewed by: spcnet

November 02, 2003

Rating: one-point-five

Cantonese Title: Kei Mo Si
Mandarin Title: Qi2 Wu3 Shi4

Warning! Spoilers!
What appears to be a series about playing Chinese chess and using strategies turns out to be another typical Taiwanese wuxia series that is riddled by too much talking and too little action. The plot itself is also uninspiring. "Chess Warriors" stars some of Taiwan's hottest--and perhaps overused--actors and actresses: Dicky Cheung Wai Kin, Amy Fan Yik Man, Ho Mei Tin, and Howie Wong Man Ho.

The story is about how China's emperor loves to play chess, so much that he even created a division in his court called the Chess Warriors. These beloved Chess Warriors of the king's are his actual chess pieces in a game on a huge chess board. The rules are also slightly different--your chess pieces can literally die if the opponent's chess warriors are stronger. If you brilliantly trap an enemey chess piece, you may still lose the round because the two chess pieces fight it out. So basically, it is a combination of first, strategy, and then martial arts skills of the chess warriors.

(I can't remember the character names since it has been a while so I will use the real names of actors and actresses.) Howie Wong and Ho Mei Tin's father are Chess Warriors and are hated by a corrupt official, who also happens to be Amy Fan's father. He plots to kill off the Chess Warriors in that year's chess game with a border country. The emperor is silly enough to listen to bad advice during the match, causing Howie to lose his right arm and Ho's father to get hurt quite badly (or die, I forgot). The king surrenders as he sees his warriors dying and loses quite a lot of important land. Both countries agree to have another game next year.

The corrupt official turns the blame onto the inability of the Chess Warriors so that Howie and Ho's family are hunted down. Ho Mei Tin manages to escape but her whole family is gone. She vows to avenge them. Meanwhile, Dicky Cheung is a chess lover who is lame and limps on one leg. His mother is blind. He saves Howie and gets entangled in his affairs.

Amy Fan, who disapproves of her father's actions, soon meets Howie and is quite attracted to him. However, while Howie also has feelings for her, he is later unable to accept that she is the daughter of the corrupt official. Ho Mei Tin also loves Howie and is quite jealous of Amy while Dicky is in love with Ho. At the end, they are all trained by a martial artist and with the help of some kung fu manual they discovered, they all become quite powerful at the end. Along with some others, they join the chess game of that year just in time and help the emperor win back his land. A quick mention to another running thread is that Dicky turns out to be the true prince and heir to the throne. He was saved from death by an imperial maid, his blind foster mother while his lameness was caused by a stab at the ankles when he was an infant. Dicky marries Amy while Ho Mei Tin is paired up with Howie at the finale.

There are many faults with this series. Ho Mei Tin's limited acting skills can be clearly seen in scenes where she turns mad. She is usually such a cute actress but playing the jealous, spiteful role really does not suit her as she couldn't really pull it off. Her romance with Howie is almost non-existent as I felt that he pitied her more than loved her. The series did not develop any kind of romance between them and it seemed to be all on her side. The rushed scene where Howie declares to care for her was too sudden, not to mention, he seemed like a jerk for dumping Amy. Trying to redo the whole lost-arm hero as in "Knife Song II" also gave a feeling of the plot being recycled. However, unlike "Knife II", Howie's character is a lot less likeable--not to mention his bad hairstyle and outfits in this series that did not complement him well. He is a stubborn, rigid, unbending, and close-minded man who could not accept Amy because of her father even though he liked her. Amy and Dicky's relationship is a little more acceptable and they do play off each other.

Amy Fan had the lucky role--her character was smart, pretty, and practically all the guys fell for her. Dicky's performance is standard but again, these types of roles are beginning to have no challenge for him and Taiwanese producers seem to love assigning him role after role of this type. Even his usual added humor could not bring light to this series.

The word dragging goes along with most Taiwanese series, and Chess Warriors did drag at many points where they talked a bunch of useless dialogues. The action is also uninteresting since there was not much fighting involved. I had expected a storyline that would bring in many cool aspects of playing Chinese chess, but unfortunately, it just showed Dicky play some games with some opponents. Also felt sorry for the fake prince since he was put down all his childhood because he didn't like to play chess and his "father", the emperor, loved it. Finally, why, why did the series put down Go, which is a complicated game in its own right?

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