Revolving Doors of Vengeance

Reviewed by: purpleprose

February 15, 2007

Rating: four

Joe Ma Tek Chung as Martin Ko Fung
Kenix Kwok Hor Yeng as Becky Koo Pek Kei
Ron Ng Cheuk Hei as Wong Kai Kit
Ella Koon Yun Na as Lei Hoi Sum
John Chiang Tai Wai as Cheng Yong Fat
Derek Kwok Cheng Hong as Mark Loong
Hon Ma Lei as Mrs. Wong
Elaine Yiu Chi Ling as Chloe Cheng Hor Yee
Lau Dan as Wong Yuk Ting
Ellesmere Choi Chi Kin as Wong Kai Yip
Winnie Yeung Yuen Yee as Julie Wong
Edward Mok Kar Kiu as Wong Kai Chi
Lo Hoi Pang as Chan Tai Hoi
Raymond Cho as Benjamin Hon

Martin Ko, having received help from the founder of Royal Court Hotel, joins the company as a pretended antagonist in order to force his benefactor's three male heirs—Kai Yip, Kai Chi, and Kai Kit—to improve their skills and reconcile. As he nears success, Martin falls in love with Becky, an employee of the hotel. Yet just when Martin is about to leave the hotel in the hands of the now-capable Wong brothers, a third party creates a misunderstanding to make the brothers vow vengeance against Martin.

Even as Martin copes with the Wongs' attacks, his relationship with Becky is constantly rocked by their mutual suspicions and abuse of emotional power. When Becky, for the sake of money, cooperates with Kit to betray Martin, their relationship is permanently scarred until time eases the pain.

Kai Kit, as Royal Court's youngest heir, is forced to mature in order to protect his mother and to secure his father's company from Martin's threats. His emotional entanglements and short temper cause him to stumble in many aspects, and Kit faces challenges one after another. When his misunderstanding with Martin is finally resolved, the two parties work together to win back the hotel from enemy hands, and Kit learns to settle down in work, in temperance, and in love.

The quality of the script fails entirely to live up to the hype of the series. Though the overall story is intriguing, the development is often illogical or cliché. The multiple layers of the plot add to its charm, but the complications also prevent strong emotional impact. With all the mysteries, betrayals, and pretensions involved, the script can barely keep itself from making major mistakes, thus neglecting to check for minor flaws. There definitely is an engaging story, but the script fails to achieve excellence in details, and more often than not, it's the little things that add up.

Versus Golden Faith:
No review of "Revolving Doors of Vengeance" is ever complete without a comparison to "Golden Faith." Though the two shows are several years apart and deal with different casts and crews, the association somehow prevails. This, therefore, is my analysis.

Both series are extremely romanticized in their characters and plots. Love triangles, antagonistic close relatives, and grand inheritances are some further similarities between the two shows. They are both prime-time, grandly-produced, dramatic sagas, and the public audience can't help but remember one because of the other.

Yet personally, I find the differences to be more keen than the likenesses. RDOV is focused upon the feud over the hotel, as the personal relationships develop along with this line. Golden Faith, on the other hand, is based upon the characters, and the company's strife is sparked by the interpersonal issues. With regards to performances, RDOV has the better young cast (with one exception), while Golden Faith triumphs in the senior cast section. Due to the dissimilarity in their script's emphases, RDOV is a more exciting series while GF is more emotionally evoking.

In my verdict, Golden Faith stands superior. Its excellence in detailed productions, its strong story development, its superb cast, and its audience impact help make it the "best" of all time while RDOV will be remain in the "better."

Cast Analysis:

Joe Ma is neither good nor bad as the mysterious Martin Ko. His imposing physique is perfect for the role, though he probably was cast because of TVB's lack of better actors at that time. His acting is tolerable, but he lacks depth and charisma. In other words, Joe Ma is as good as he gets here. He generally manages to play the character through angry, happy, sad, threatening, scheming, and tender moments. Yet that's all, nothing more. The performance is satisfactory, but not overwhelming.

Kenix Kwok does a good job, yet still without performing well enough for the complex role. Her attempt at versatility by taking the part of a scheming seductress, in order to vie for best actress, does not have ideal results. Although Kenix portrays all the proper expressions rightly and credibly, she does not have control over the multi-layered quality of her character. Becky looks exactly the same in her deceptions and in her real moments, to the point that Kenix seems to be playing two characters as opposed to Becky being one and pretending as another. Her severe lack of chemistry with Joe Ma also keeps her from exploring the role to its limits. Becky is simply a commendable but rather ineffective attempt by TVB's most valued actress.

Ron Ng lands a rising actor's dream role as a rich young man who turns from rash to competent firstly in career, then in lovelife. Even though Kit is immature and even foolish for most of the series, audiences adore the character mainly because they are shown his perspective. As someone who has not seen Ron in any other major roles, I cannot comment on his versatility. Yet I honestly like him very much in this series. He does a terrific job with such a major role, and he could appear convincingly angry and quarrelsome when necessary. (For those who complain that he was "invented" by TVB out of no where, I saw him for the first time as one of Deric Wan's subordinate police officers in Golden Faith) Ron had only one or two unnatural scenes in the series, mostly with Elaine Yiu. The character may stink at times, but Ron still performs outstandingly.

Ella Koon, though not rendering a classic performance, is impressive as a newcomer. She has consistency problems with her boyish mannerisms during the first half, but this concern disappears as Hoi Sum becomes more ladylike. Ella successfully plays the rough-around-the-edges but extremely kind Hoi Sum. Her emotional scenes are surprisingly well done, and her simply wonderful chemistry with Ron exists even in bickering dialogues or faraway gazes. This is altogether a lovely, lovely performance.

John Chiang is the only actor to perform up to his veteran status as the enemy of Royal Court Hotel. He is the only character that the audience could consistently hate, though the trite reasons for his malice could be boring at times. As an uncle who uses his nephews and relations, the character is a 100% antagonist, and John is a 100% natural actor who does a great job.

Derek Kwok has been largely praised for his portrayal of Martin's friend and assistant Mark Loong, though this shouldn't come as any surprise. After all, Mark is the only purely positive character in the entire series. He is ever selfless, loyal, diligent, sincere, and kind, and it is only Derek's amazing capabilities that keep Mark from becoming a caricature. His comrade chemistry with Joe Ma is far superior over Joe's romantic chemistry (or lack thereof) with Kenix. Derek has never failed to be a captivating actor in any series, for parts large and small, and this time was no different.

Elaine Yiu's Chloe wins the most irritating award for both the character and the actress. Chloe is a manipulative, selfish, unprincipled young woman who uses her schemes and pretensions to hurt her rivals. As if the detestable character was not enough, Elaine delivers a pathetic performance. Perhaps she might do better with more lively and two-dimensional roles, but Elaine is entirely helpless with this serene, deep character that has to constantly cry, horrific crier as she is. Though Chloe realizes the vanity of her pretensions in the end, Elaine still deserves thrashing. She is the weakest link in the entire cast.

The actor who plays Hoi Sum's brother is actually quite good as Kit's sunshine disposition friend. Even though the character may not be entirely admirable, he enlivens the role on the screen. The actor incorporates subtle expressions and diverse kinds of eye contact in his performance, making Hoi Long all the more tangible and lovable. This is one of the few supporting performances that truly enhance the cast.

Ellesmere Choi, Edward Mok, and Winnie Yeung play basically symbolic characters for the entire series. At the outset, Kai Yip is a passive golddigger, Kai Chi a lazy playboy, and Mrs. Kai Yip a domineering shopaholic wife. Yet when the family has to unite for Royal Court, Kai Yip becomes competent, Kai Chi uses his interpersonal skills for the business' sake, and Mrs. Kai Yip becomes a caring housewife. As for the performances, all three required a slightly rough start before successfully easing into their roles. Though they do not do perfect jobs, they offer sufficient quality to not detract from the series.

Hon Ma Lei and Lo Hoi Pang, two extremely veteran actors, deliver satisfactory performances. The former is gorgeous as a tycoon's wife, and she embodies a motherly figure towards Kit very well. Her character also serves to reveal Kit's emotional status to the audience throughout the series. Lo Hoi Pang is sometimes comical in his portrayal of an old trickster struck with amnesia. Although his role is pivotal to the story development, Lo does not invest the extra effort to mold his character completely, leaving his performance merely acceptable.

Everything in this series is good, but not excellent. This description goes for the camera, the soundtrack, the costume, the direction, and the gigantic cast. The production is obviously extensive and expensive, but unfortunately for TVB, money does not equal art. Everything is grandly financed but relatively haphazardly done.

The Enhancers:
1) A breathtaking theme song that may well be the best TVB theme song in the last decade
2) Becky's adorable son
3) Touching moments of fraternal camaraderie among the Wong brothers
4) "Royal Court" as a good allusion to ancient court politics
5) Gorgeous shots done in Laoag, Philippines
6) A wonderful English title, complete with symbolism, that aptly describes the theme of the series
7) Good make-up, particularly for Kenix

The Detractors:
1) No solid foundation from supporting cast
2) Bad English from the main cast
3) Chloe has more sweet scenes with Kit than Hoi Sum has.
4) Illogically magnified subplots within certain episodes
5) Female wardrobes that do not highlight personal style

"Revolving Doors of Vengeance" is indeed better than the average television series. Its incredible proportions in casting and production already make the series watchable, and the twists in the story keep the momentum for 30 episodes. Though without classic quality, this series is "play safe" entertainment. Not everyone will be impressed, but nobody could hate it. I refer it to audiences who enjoy long, complicated dramas and to those who do not want to spend time experimenting with more characteristic serials. I personally watched just to have the right to my own opinion. Now that I do have it, you could use that reason too.

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