While I (and probably most of the Chinese diaspora my generation) grew up watching TVB dramas, I have drifted away from them after discovering c-dramas as they have become very run-of-the-mill with type-casted actors/actresses. The last one I watched was A Fist Within Four Walls (2016) with Ruco Chan who I think is one of the better actors left in TVB’s stable.
After watching a slew of C-rom coms and with nothing much interesting on the radar at the moment, I stumbled upon The Exorcist’s Meter. Frankly, I was never a fan of Kenneth Ma – he always tended to over-act (a common problem with many HK actors) but it had been ages since TVB did a supernatural drama so my interest was piqued. And boy, it did not dissappoint!
The story itself is nothing new – yet another spin on the perennial Wuxia trope with the-Everyman-discovering-himself-to-be-the-Anointed-One-bestowed-with-special-powers. What sets it apart is that TVB finally churned out a script which flowed organically amidst the backdrop of the characters’ backstories without being overwrought or deliberate and assembled an excellent group of actors ranging from the main 4 to all the supporting cast.
Kenneth Ma totally nailed it as the titular character, Ma Kwai. He did not over-exaggerate his ordinariness of a night-shift taxi-driver in his demeanor or language and managed to imbue his character with genuine heart – the show itself was kitschy in its premise and without a strong protagonist, it could have gone very wrong and Ma Kwai successfully tipped the show from maudlin/crass into heartfelt and relatable.
Its my first time watching Hubert Wu and he interpreted Shek Kam Dong with just the right amount of seriousness with a hint of HK-tongue-in-cheek. He also sang both the main and sub-theme songs which seemed written just to fit the drama (not sure if it was or not) but both songs anchored the storyline at the right moments. Excellent!
Moon Lau was exceedingly likable as her character Pui Pui Na and she really owned her role as a cheerful, warm-hearted and driven young lady without being unnaturally idealistic (loved how she dealt with her fakester, grop-y co-worker). She may have second billing but she was in as many scenes as the lead female and I enjoyed all her interactions with both Ma Kwai and Shek Kam Dong. If there was a weak link in the quartet, I would say that it was the female lead, Chong Tze Yeuk, who is played by Mandy Wong – perhaps in interpreting Tze Yeuk as someone who is burdened by her past, the character came across colorless and a little over-measured (unlike Hubert Wu’s portrayal of Shek Kam Dong who was meant to be a thousand years genie but his delivery was never overly-constructed to the point of blankness). Mandy Wong plays a dual role in this drama (which I wont spoil for the readers) but its to the credit of the script that it actually made sense without some odd TVB logic!
Special mention to Ram Chiang and Susan Tse who played Ma Kwai’s uncle and mom. Their exchanges were grounded in reality and I believe struck a chord with many. I actually thought the ending was quite well done – it does leave room for a sequel but even if not, I would not say that it did not conclude. Rather, it just showed how Life continues.
I laughed, I cried and I cheered when watching the drama and I think that means its quite a success – Kudos to the little drama that could (I learnt that it is now a TVB anniversary drama when it wasn’t initially slated to be) and I am happy to say that I watched a TVB drama in entirety in 2017!