Here is another TVB series review which we know you all love. ;) Burning Hands ended a while ago but since we were behind on dramas, the review is out now.
Plot Overview: A group of con-artists, Yat Gor (Ruco Chan), Win Jeh (Rosina Lam), Yee Jai/Hugo (Joel Chan), Souvenir (Candice Chiu), Sun Kai Jai (Jazz Lam), Open Eyes (Tsui Wing), and Sau Fung (Stefan Wong), plan to take revenge for their master Szeto Sing (Pat Poon), who lost a game of gambling to the "Gambling King", Fok Chun-sing (Pal Sinn). They soon are forced to work under Chun-sing as investigators for his business's missing money. Before the case is solved, the story spirals into a revenge plot, where in reality, Yat Gor is trying to avenge his father, Cheung Tin-lung's (Hugo Ng) death, which he suspects is the doing of Fok Chun-sing. As the story progresses, the true villains are revealed and Yat Gor and Fok Chun-sing team up to bring order back into their lives.
Our combined thoughts (CONTAINS SPOILERS!):
Initially we were pretty excited to see this drama since there was an appealing cast and focus of the story. However, it was not as we thought it would be. Burning Hands was not a bad drama, but let’s just say that there was expectation for it to be so much more. Especially with the big cast, the drama was especially disappointing. Firstly, we were unimpressed with the changing focuses of the plot. It started off as a revenge plot with the con-artist schemes. Then, it turned to searching for the traitor of Chun-sing’s company, and then, it was back to revenge (what is a TVB drama with a revenge on father's killer right?). However, it turns out that the father isn’t dead and he is a despicable man who is not worth helping. Now, they’re fighting against Hugo and blah blah blah…but what happened to the con-artist theme? We really hoped that this would be the overarching theme and while the drama attempted to add lines here and there to relate it, we are lacking a strong connection between the plot of the story as a whole to the con-artists. To be honest, it could have been ANYONE who went through the same story (ordinary citizens) and the idea of using swindlers as the role of the characters was supposed to be more interesting, but it really had no effect on the typical business rivalry story that we've seen in every other drama. Even at the very end, we expected a grand scheme full of tricks and games and what we got was a fistfight between Yat Gor and Hugo and by luck - not by skills, Hugo got shot. Whatever happened to Hugo's magic tricks! He barely did anything with his "superb" magic and only used it to impress girls. They didn't even have a huge gambling game between the two as the casino theme was supposed to be big in the drama.
At the beginning, they tried to show off each of the Szeto Sing’s apprentices' wonderful skills of conning people's money, but some of the schemes were quite dumb. For example, Open Eyes just made rich people drop their watches and picked them up (were his driving skills beast? we doubt it). We didn't even know what Souvenir was really doing. We can comment, however, that her disguises aren't that spectacular because she looked basically the same as before. She has the same mainland nanny accent for a lot of her disguises and the makeup is very unnatural and a bit much. Worst of all, the "head" of their little gang, Yat Gor, SOLD HIS APARTMENT. As far as we know, that is not considered tricking people, that's just selling something that was yours for the price it was worth. It also turns out that Sun Kai Jai's boxing isn't that great and his skills as a con-artist is really limited. He is beaten pretty much 70% of the time and has no use especially during the action scenes. He came out beaten and bruised every time. Sau Fung had a more unique set of skills, but he did nothing much with them. . why don't we call him resident bartender instead? These scenes gave us false expectations that that was how the drama was going to look like (with lots of playful tricks and schemes). Not to mention, the beginning resembled 90% to the film, Now You See Me.
The whole story with Hugo (Not Hugo Ng or Hugo Wong, but Joel Chan, who played Hugo) was puzzling. To create a successful villain, we have to gain some understanding of he/she's background, but there weren't even flashbacks for Hugo's back story! He only laments a few times of how he had a miserable past. To the audience, it felt like he suddenly turned bad in the span of a couple episodes and in this time period, his cruelty escalated to a point where he is did not mind killing people at all. The problem with this is that we never get a bridge between a supposedly loyal and kind person to a ruthless murderer. Another thing we don't understand is why he keeps visiting his father if he despises him so much? Who is the father anyways? What exactly happened in the past that made his son so vengeful? The story would have benefited if there was the development of this story, instead of showing the numerous intimate scenes with Veronica and Hugo. Speaking of Veronica, when did Hugo even meet her? It felt like they knew each other long before, but there was never an explanation. Why was he with Dawn in the first place if he was already with Veronica, especially since it didn't help him with getting any power or money and he eventually broke up with her anyways? It makes us wonder if he really had this whole plan to take over the company before going to Macau (like they made it seem in the drama). Also, how did he not die with the bullet shot right into his neck? It looked pretty fatal to us...
Another issue we have is with having two major villains, Hugo and Cheung Tin-lung. Their personalities aren't contrasted enough that it makes it feel like that we can have one villain without another. They both are mentally unstable, treat their women like disposable objects, are driven mad with the desire for revenge, and want to be the big boss of Chun-sing's company. The only major difference is Hugo wants to defeat Yat Gor, while Tin-Lung wants to defeat Chun-sing. So although it was amusing to see Cheung Tin-Lung, we didn't need to see two of the same characters (one old and one young). In fact, the series would have probably been much better with one, focused and mature antagonist. They also did not develop Cheung Tin-Lung's story enough. He just came back suddenly and went on a rampage and shot people and such. They skimmed over how he spent the last few decades and he was just a plot device to make the drama more dramatic and crazy.
The side story with Win Jeh and Ah Leung was random and really didn't have any connection with what was going on in the main plot, except in the end, when Ah Leung got angry and decided to take revenge on all the good guys as well. Win Jeh's character was totally wasted as all she did was be sad about Yat Gor not loving her back. (although he did but couldn't be with her). She has a major flaw as a con-artist because she gets too attached and then makes irrational decisions based on her gut feeling. Our question is if she already knew that she loved Yat Gor so much, even if it was unrequited, why did she suddenly marry Ah Leung and lie about the baby and everything? Her thoughts went something like this, 'He hasn't called me back yet, he obviously doesn't want me anymore, well might as well give myself to another man right here right now! ... I'm feeling a bit of regret... oh no... I feel horrible, I love Yat, I should have never been with Leung' It didn't make much sense so we guessed this was just another device to make sure Ah Leung would be betrayed, thus giving him reason to help Hugo defeat Yat Gor. This part of the story was honestly unnecessary. As the main female lead, Win Jeh had nothing to do but be annoying and irrational.
The deaths of Stone and Win Jeh's father was completely unnecessary as well and it didn't have much purpose. Why not just have Stone become a better person and redeem himself from past mistakes? Win Jeh's father dying was like, ok let's move on!
In terms of acting, there was no room for actors to show off their acting skills and again, the actors were wasted in a weak story-line. Ruco was the same, one-dimensional heroic protagonist and despite trying to make him have a "bad" image at the beginning, he was just a benevolent character that tried to make things right for everyone. We know what Ruco can do and frankly, this is not even close to a Tv king worthy portrayal due to the bland character. The same thing goes for many of these actors and actresses such as Rosina Lam. We expected her to be a cool heroine, but all she did was cry about her romantic life and when she got pregnant, she basically just sat in her house. No character development at all. We did enjoy Joel's acting as Hugo and we hope to see him act well as a good character next time as he is usually the bad guy. We didn't mind Kelly Fu's acting and we can tell she's improved a lot from Triumph in the Skies II. At least she wasn't cringe-worthy because we all know with TVB, it could have been a lot worse. We liked Candice as Souvenir as well with a fun personality to differ from the other female leads and we wished there was more growth of the role as well because she was just "there" most of the time, and this made her eventually annoying when she just did unnecessary things (trying to allure Yat Gor). That statement basically holds true for all of the members of Szeto's con-artist gang because every time they appear on screen, they're drinking beer or having hotpot in their hideout together to celebrate their last day together as a team...and then they never actually leave... We know there's supposed to be a strong friendship between these characters but unfortunately, we couldn't feel any of that companionship. They were all just useless sidekicks, who never got to use their skills for a good reason. As for Pal Sinn, he acting was mediocre and his crying scenes were really forced. The character of Chun-sing was not very memorable either as he just cried "Celine, Celine!" throughout the drama. Hugo Ng was also really fun to watch and he is great at acting as a villain!
We're gonna stop here now, since we realized we are mainly complaining about every BAD thing in the drama. Of course, there were positives as well like the change of the usual setting of Hong Kong to Macau. The ending was suspenseful and it had enough tension to make us keeping watching until the very end. We guess it's the huge hype for the drama and the cast that made it such a let-down for us because it misled us into thinking this would be a theme entirely based on con-artistry. The plot was too inconsistent and took too much of the drama trying to cram everything in which took away from characterization. Having one major and intense overlying scam would have worked nicely in this drama, while there would be more time to build meaning and layers into characters. So yes, we were quite disappointed with the series. Our warning would be if you are going to see the drama, go in with zero expectations and you might enjoy it more. Our rating for Burning Hands is going to be 6.5/10.
Thank you for putting up with our unstructured, jumbled ranting! Hope you guys are enjoying more (and better) dramas out there!