Duke of Mt. Deer


Reviewed by: TKL

August 11, 2004

Rating: two-point-five

A few years ago, TVB did a remake of "Duke of Mount Deer" (DOMD) starring Jordan Chan and Steven Ma Jun Wai. While Jordan and Steven became the subjects for scrutiny in comparison to the original talented cast Tony Leung and Andy Lau, the series also failed to bring fame to any actor/actress in this series. So why did Wong Jing decide that he would remake this ancient series? Was he trying to outdo TVB? Or did he hate the original story so much that he decided to take matters into his own hands and changed the entire plot to his liking?

Anyway, with much circulating news about the star-studded cast and a promise to entertain the audience, everyone anticipated the release of this series. The series itself has revived Dicky Cheung’s career and brought Ruby Lin to the next level of fame. To the audience, it entertains some tremendously, while leaving others with a sense of disappointment and a "It could have been better" feeling. I belong to the latter group, so if you are looking for a favourable review, please do yourself a favour and stop reading from here. This piece of writing contains my personal opinion. I did not write this because there are many people out there who like this series and I decide to be anti-social and create war. I might make some comparisons between DOMD 98 and DOMD 2000 since I cannot remember much from Tony Leung’s version except the fact that it left me with a positive impression.

STAR STUDDED CAST:
Dicky Cheung as Wai Siu Bo
Hsu Chi as Little Goldfish
Ruby Lam as Princess Kin Ning
Annie Wu/Ng Sun Kwan as Seung Yi
Cheung Sai as Muk Gim Ping
Athena Chu Yun as Or Or
Teresa Mak Ka Kei as Fong Yi
Monica Chan Fat Yung as Long Yi
Patrick Tam Yiu Man as Emperor Hong Hei
Ng Man Dat as eunuch Hoi
Tsui Kam Kong as Ow Bai
Dior Cheng as Chan Gun Nam, the leader of Heaven and Earth Sect.

PLOT: The well-known story of "Duke of Mount Deer" tells a tale of an uneducated scoundrel named Wai Siu Bo who grows up in a brothel with his mother. He has never known who his father is. Wai Siu Bo's only goal in life is to be rich and it’s understandable because of where he comes from. However, with a twist of fate, Siu Bo encounters many distinguished figures such as Chan Gun Nam, Eunuch Hoi, the one-armed Ming Princess, emperor Hong Hei, etc., these encounters have not only changed his life but also brought out those admiring characteristics of Siu Bo. From the very bottom of the social ladder, Siu Bo makes his way up to the top as a beloved servant of the Emperor and as a distinct figure in the Heaven and Earth Sect. Initially, Siu Bo might be greedy, might do anything to save his life, however, towards the end of the series, we come to love the character because he is very human. He might be greedy but it is realistic, he might be flirty but he does care for his wives, he might be uneducated but he is extremely loyal to his friends, and never once forgot his responsibilities towards his family. "Duke of Mount Deer" makes fun at all the values and tradition that were praised very highly in other Jin Yong novels. The Heaven and Sect's members are not as brave and courageous as the Red Rose Sect in "Legend of the Book and the Sword". Our hero in this story is not dashingly handsome nor is he powerful in kung-fu.

THE MUTATED PLOT OF "DUKE OF MOUNT DEER 2000": Wong Jing decided to write a story of his own. He even changed the title into "Siu Bo and Hong Hei" and this change is not really relevant to the changes he adds to the story which I will elaborate on later. I started watching this series with a very open mind and decided that I would not mind if there are changes or additions in the story. I did not mind so much when Chan Gun Nam disappears mysteriously after one episode and another character step in to take the role of Siu Bo's si-fu. I also did not mind how Wong Jing turns Eunuch Hoi into a comic figure because it was entertaining. I also did not mind so much the changes to Siu Bo's wives nor did I mind the complete make-over of Princess Kin Ning. Actually, Ruby Lin was brilliant in the role of Princess Kin Ning. But I discovered that there is a limit to my tolerance and so-called "open-mind". First of all, there is absolutely no chemistry and no relationship between Siu Bo and Hong Hei, the dialogues in their scenes are witless. One of the reasons I loved "Duke of Mount Deer" is what could be called a "love triangle" between Siu Bo, Hong Hei, and Chan Gun Nam. They show us how these two men see something in Siu Bo that no one else notices. They value him, they consider him as their friend. This is also the explanation for Siu Bo's loyalty and respect towards them. Yet in this series, Hong Hei appears to be just a boss who is using his servant. Even TVB's "Duke of Mount Deer 1998" did a better job in showing the trusting friendship between Siu Bo and Hong Hei. There is no barrier of class between them, they are completely at ease with each other. While in here, not only the heart-warming scenes between the two were cut down to make room for his boring love life, but they turn into enemies too soon in the series. In order to elevate Siu Bo to the level of a generous and forgiving hero, Wong Jing turns Hong Hei into a really calculating man. Remember how Hong Hei holds Siu Bo's wives hostage and ask Siu Bo to destroy the Heaven and Earth Sect? A friend would never do that, if Hong Hei did that, he is not worthy of Siu Bo's friendship. However, this change was nothing in comparison to the change to Siu Bo's character. He suddenly becomes the hero with virtues and extremely powerful kung-fu, and I have to emphasize "extremely powerful" because no one could defeat him in this series.

CHARACTERS:

Ekin Cheng aka Chan Gun Nam: initially, I was appalled to learn that Ekin Cheng will play the role of Chan Gun Nam since he does not express himself very freely when he acts. His facial expression is quite limited. However, he appears in one episode and then disappears mysteriously for the rest of the series. Chan Gun Nam's character is a key figure in Siu Bo's life yet his character is cut short (Wong Jing probably does not have enough money to pay for Ekin to continue his role). However, he did manage to grace the screen in that short time. The dialogues between Ekin and Dicky were funny and the fighting choreography was impressive.

Tsui Kam Kong aka Ow Bai: hmm can’t tell much about this guy except that he appears in most of Hong Kong's movies. He was alright as an arrogant Ow Bai. The tension between him and Hong Hei was quite convincing. However, I hate the way Wong Jing let him die. It was too easy. Siu Bo manages to shoot him. That was it. I was thinking, if Siu Bo had the gun from the beginning, why didn't he just shoot the guy in the first place instead of letting him beating everyone to half-death?

Ng Man Dat as Eunuch Hoi: I did not like so much when this character turned into a comic figure, however, I have to admit that the series lost some tension and drama due to this change. What is annoying later on in the series is that he mysteriously disappears and reappears when Siu Bo needs him and they yak on too much. It's kind of boring and dragging.

Dicky Cheung aka Wai Siu Bo: I have never doubted that he is a talented actor. He is surely more handsome than Jordan Chan. The chemistry between Siu Bo and his wives, especially princess Kin Ning was sparkling. He plays romantic scenes very well. However, there is lack of chemistry between him and Hong Hei. They are not convincing as a pair of best friends. Besides which, his character is turned into this super-loving husband, a lovesick boy, a superman who is powerful at kung-fu. The series spent too much time on his love life, like how he courts each wife and how he proves his love to each one of them. It might be nice but too much of it is really unbearable and not true to his character. Siu Bo might like his wives but I don't think he truly loves any of them. He was captivated by Ah Or because she was exceptionally beautiful. He married King Ning because she coerced him. He amused himself with Muk Gim Ping because she was very naïve, innocent, and cute. He proposed to Seung Yi because she was very loyal to him and he needed her assistance. And Fong Yi? Because she was there and properly because he was envious of her love for her boyfriend. He decided to court her because of his ego, he wanted to prove that he was so much better than her boyfriend and that he could make her love him like that. And Lung Yi, she was pretty and she is different than his other wives in the aspect that she is very independent. In this version, with the appearance of Hsu Chi as Little Goldfish, I think she is the only one he actually holds any affection for. I know that deep down Siu Bo does not really love any of his wives, and if there is another girl in the scene, I'm sure he would begin to court her. And the interesting thing in this story is that a guy like Siu Bo actually has many wives. Yet this is also due to his pure luck. Imagine, most of his wives have never been courted by a proper male or the guys whom they encounter are even worse than Siu Bo. For instance, Fong Yi's and Ah Or's boyfriends are both cowards. It is fun to watch Dicky as Siu Bo in the first few episodes but after that, he yaks on too much, he spends too much time with each of his wives, he becomes a superman. I do not think this is a fine performance of Dicky Cheung. He was so much better in "Journey to the West I". If you have been watching him in recent Taiwanese series such as "Happy Flying Dragons", "The Witty Attorney", "Young Fong Sai Yuk", the way he played these series are very much like Siu Bo. Unfortunately for me, I have been watching too many of his series, and all of them are set in the Ching Dynasty, I cannot think of him without thinking of the shaved head and the pigtail.

Patrick Tam aka Hong Hei: this is one of the miscast characters of the series. Not only is it because of Patrick’s inability to create any chemistry with Dicky, but also his inability to portray Hong Hei satisfactorily. Hong Hei is another main character in this series who is the total opposite of Siu Bo. He is born in a royal family, destined to be the emperor, is educated and has everything in his hands. Though he is young, he is fearless and determined, and very good at using people and strategy. Patrick is too muscular and strong-built to play the role of a very young emperor. Patrick Tam also failed to express his fear of Ow Bai. It was overacting on his part when he sees Ow Bai. Steven Ma did a much better job than Patrick Tam. But if I can think of one person who plays Hong Hei to perfection, that actor is Deric Wan. He successfully portrayed a young Hong Hei in "Emperor Hong Hei", who might fear of Ow Bai's ability to overthrow him, but he was very determined to get rid of Ow Bai. The only scene I like Patrick Tam in this series is when he is waiting for the official to bring Siu Bo's head to him. Patrick Tam conveyed the emotion every well.

SIU BO'S WIVES:

Ruby Lin aka Kin Ning: what more can I say about this actress? She impresses me with her beauty and talent in this series. She outshone all the other actresses and turns her character into a very lovable and pitiful character. She shows that she has what it takes to portray a cute and cheerful princess successfully. She was properly the only reason that kept me watching until the end. And if you decide to watch DOMD 2000, I’m sure that you would also be impressed by her. The chemistry between her and Dicky was undeniable.

Annie Wu aka Seung Yi: very young and fresh looking and very tall. Her role is likable because she is the perfect stick. No matter what Siu Bo does, she always supports him and is extremely loyal to him. It was sad to see how she cried when Siu Bo whispering all these sweet things to Lung Yi who was just lying next to her.

Cheung Sai aka Muk Gim Ping: very cute, but does not stand out. Her role does not require her to do very much except agreeing to everything Fong Yi says. Remember the scene in which she was crying and dancing and singing for Siu Bo? It was very cute.

Teresa Mak Ka Kei aka Fong Yi: this character is very bitchy. Teresa is not beautiful and she always has this angry or "you-annoyed-me" look on her face. I did not like her character at all.

Monica Chan Fat Yung aka Lung Yi: a nice surprise since I have not seen her in any costume series before. She plays her role very well and the chemistry between her and Dicky is convincing.

Athena Chu Yun aka Ah Or: this is the second miscast character in the series. I have never thought Chu Yun as someone who is really pretty or has the features of a classic chinese beauty. She is not fit in the role of Ah Or who is supposed to be a rare beauty. Her skin is too dark, her lips are abnormally thick, her hair-do and costumes make her look really fat and short. In addition, Ah Or is an annoying character who despises Siu Bo.

Hsu Chi aka Little Goldfish: why did Wong Jing create this character? Her role has little significance aside from showing that Siu Bo loves her. She is not my favourite actress and I always wonder how she manages to make it big in Hong Kong's movie world. She is not what I would call pretty and her figure is not that outstanding. She always manages to make me hate her roles because she always pouts her lips, and turns her characters into some childish, immature, brainless girl.

Costumes are not very outstanding and are inappropriate for a series set in the Ching Dynasty. The fighting choreography is good. The scenery is not that impressive except for the fact that it's a nice change from TVB series. The setting of the series also makes me pity the actors/actresses because it looks like it's freezing and it's hard enough for them to talk, let alone act, in that kind of weather.

Overall, the series is entertaining to some extent. However, it is such a pity that Wong Jing turned everything around and let it drag on for too long. If I was Wong Jing, I would not name this series "Siu Bo and Hong Hei" because there is not much in the series about the relationship between the two in this series. I would have called this series "Siu Bo’s love life" or "Siu Bo and his seven wives".

Screenshots: (CTS Copyrighted)


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