MAGIC CARD (2015) review


An impressively ill-conceived little caper, Keung Kwok Man’s Magic Card start with a quick-cut montage explaining that credit card fraud is widespread and complex, followed by the introduction of a well-organized credit card fraud gang. Then it sets all this aside for most of the film, before returning to it in the final 10 minutes. It’s as if the screenwriters bookended one screenplay with the introduction and conclusion of another, unrelated screenplay. The title refers to a card that the hero uses to determine if a bank terminal is fraudulent or not, but that card is not seen or mentioned in the film more than a few seconds in one single scene. And for most of its runtime, Magic Card tells of a computer expert (Kimi Qiao) who travels to Pavia (a idyllic town near Milan) to follow his foster sister (Dada Chan) and her vain, ineffectual and filthy rich boyfriend (Kainan Bai), as the latter prepares to buy and level an entire street to turn it into casinos and karaokes, much to the dismay of the locals, represented by a fortright lawyer (Maria Grazia Cuccinotta). Stepping in as a mediator is a rich Chinese businessman (Simon Yam), with whose daughter (Viann Zhang) the computer expert falls in love.

It’s hard to see for whom Magic Card is meant, and with reason: it wants to be for everyone. There’s some stunningly rote romantic goings-on as Kimi Qiao and Viann Zhang fall in love and share some puppy love in sun-drenched touristic locales, while a sleepwalking Simon Yam and former Bond girl Maria Grazia Cucinotta share a laughably dead-eyed, chemistry-free little flirtation (witness their impressively awkward final hug). There’s a bit of comedy as Kainan Bai mugs his way through the film as a caricature of the filthy rich so blunt and artless that it almost makes you feel sympathy for the filthy rich. There is a miserly sprinkling of action as Jiang Luxia pops up in the final reel as a dour, high-kicking, leather-clad henchwoman (isn’t she getting tired of these roles?). There’s some laughably skimpy international intrigue with the aforementioned ‘credit card fraud gang’ (headed by an appalling, potbellied, bewigged Gweilo) and Adriano Giannini as an Interpol agent. The Italian locations are prettily captured, but most establishing shots are scored to Italian Opera, which is to Italy what accordion music is to Paris and what Red Army Choir is to Russia. And on top of all these stale ingredients, tiny, incongruous subplots about online games and soccer are added, that are obviously meant to broaden the film’s already stretched-beyond-recognition appeal.

Long Story Short : An impressively ill-conceived little caper, Magic Card combines the thrill of credit card fraud with the excitement of real estate acquisitions, all wrapped up in trite romance, skimpy action and thick comedy. *

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