Review: SIFU VS VAMPIRE 天師鬥殭屍 (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Review: SIFU VS VAMPIRE 天師鬥殭屍 (2014)

2 stars
SIFU VS VAMPIRE is fairly amusing, but this vampire-horror comedy suffers too much from incompetent direction to blend both genres successfully.

Last year, Juno Mak's critically-acclaimed RIGOR MORTIS had successfully revived the long-forgotten "hopping vampire" genre once populated in the '80s era of Hong Kong cinema. Although first-time director Juno Mak did pay tribute to the aforementioned genre, RIGOR MORTIS was more moody and serious in its overall tone. Not so for this year's SIFU VS VAMPIRE, which is more akin to the crowd-pleasing tone of the MR. VAMPIRE era. From the surface, it was finally nice to see a "hopping vampire" genre movie played for laughs just like the good old days. But upon finally watching it, the movie turns out to be a huge disappointment instead.


In SIFU VS VAMPIRE, a pair of small-time gangsters Nicky (Ronald Cheng) and his friend Boo (Philip Ng) are tasked by their boss (Tony Ho) to threaten Charlie Jiang (Yuen Biao), a renowned feng shui master to exhume the corpse of the young TV station tycoon AK Chow (Kelvin Kwan) after Charlie refuses to help AK Chow earlier. Apparently Charlie has sworn not to get involved with the Chow family anymore, especially after his late father (Patrick Keung) died at the hand of Chow's great grandfather's corpse who turned into a vicious vampire during an ill-fated ritual when Charlie was a teenager. Things get worse when AK Chow, who ends up seeking help from another master (Ricky Yi) instead, causes his great grandfather's corpse revived again as a vampire.

Director Daniel Chan and producer Wong Jing, who previously collaborated in last year's failed remake of YOUNG AND DANGEROUS: RELOADED, does quite a good job this time around in SIFU VS VAMPIRE. Thanks to Wong Jing's winning blend of vulgar comedy and amusing sight gags in his screenplay, the movie is undeniably fun and entertaining. Well, that is at least for the first half or so.

The heavy use of CGI in this movie is surprisingly adequate enough and doesn't look too cheesy, especially when it comes to a moderately-budgeted production from Wong Jing.

The movie also helps with the right casting of Ronald Cheng, who almost steals the show with his hilarious and energetic performance as Nicky. Veteran actor Ricky Yi, in the meantime, shows an equal flair of comedy chops and wickedness in his role as Charlie's rival and manipulative master. Patrick Keung delivers a worthwhile cameo appearance as Charlie's ill-fated father in the flashback sequence.

There are few funny moments throughout the movie, but none of them are memorable enough to be included here.

Whereas the movie fairly succeeds in the comedy department, the same cannot be said with the poor display of action sequences choreographed by Yuen Cheung-Yan and Philip Ng himself. Making things worse are Ko Chiu-Lam's haphazard camerawork and Li Ka-Wing's fast editing, which made the action sequences difficult to watch and hard to enjoy for.

The movie is also pretty spotty in places, especially when it drags with too many unnecessary fillers and subplots. For instance, there is one long-winded moment involving Boo's favourite actress Balla (Bella Law) gets bitten by a vampire and determines to overcome the effect of turning into one herself with the help of Charlie and his assistant Ling Xin (Kitty Jiang). Because of that, the movie takes its own sweet time to get to the point. And even when the final moment has arrived, the payoff turns out to be a big letdown instead with a series of unimaginative action sequences.

While some of the cast here is noteworthy, the rest of the actors are plain disappointing. The biggest waste of all is Yuen Biao. This is supposed to be his comeback in a leading role, but he fails to impress much with his mostly serious-looking performance as Charlie. Even if his acting leaves little to be desired for, at least he still can excel with his nifty martial-arts skill. Too bad that is also hardly the case because he doesn't get to fight much since most of the fighting sequence is strangely handled by Kitty Jiang instead. Speaking of Kitty Jiang, her performance as Charlie's assistant is bland with her almost-expressionless face. In fact, all the female cast here is nothing more than some mere eye candy. And that includes Michelle Hu, who plays a beautiful female ghost named Tomorrow (I kid you not, because that was really the name of her character) and of course, Bella Law. Kelvin Kwan's performance as the arrogant AK Chow is equally forgettable. Philip Ng, who previously starred in a kung fu period epic ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI earlier this year, made a 360-degree turn playing comedy role for a change. Although it's good to see an action star is bold enough to try something different, Ng's wooden performance fails to elicit much of a laugh.


Despite all the intentions that Daniel Chan and Wong Jing try to recreate the nostalgia factor of the "hopping vampire" genre for the new generation, SIFU VS VAMPIRE only manages to entertain with a fraction of entertaining moments but clearly not enough to qualify this as a satisfying effort.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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