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The Film
Cheaters, The

Its Origin
Hong Kong

Running Time
81 mins

Genre(s)
Thriller

Director(s)
Billy Chung

Stars
Jordan Chan
Alex Fong

DVD Distributor
Universe

DVD Origin
Hong Kong

Region Code
All

DVD Format
NTSC

Audio Tracks
Cantonese DD 5.1
Mandarin DD 5.1


Subtitles
Chinese, English

Screen Format
Letterboxed

Special Info
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Film rating:
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Cheaters, The


Film & DVD Review
Five youngsters, each possessing a unique talent, work together as a professional con group. Knowing that a big trickster "King of Ghost" joins a billionaire's corporation planning to take over the immense properties, they join the corporation respectively in order to get some benefits. One of them is killed. They swear to take revenge at all cost. In the critical moments they discover a betrayer among them...

There are some films around that the premise for the film has quite a bit of potential. The good idea that can make a film is there and just needs to be realised. The Cheaters is one such film that had that idea and potential, but like quite a number of others it is also a film that fails to realise it.

The thing that got me initially about The Cheaters was that the main characters, despite being conmen, were modest in their work. In the planning for the con that is the main focus of the film, it is clear from the outset that they are not going for the big glamorous, spectacular con that will net them more money than you could ever dream of, but they are setting their sights fairly small, something that they hope will allow their job to go under the radar. I liked that approach; it was something different to what I'm used to seeing. More often than not, the heroes, the suave gangsters, the criminal masterminds, they all go for the big score and while definitely having more of the "wow" factor, this can cause the film to tread dangerously close to the realms of the unbelievable. This does not happen in The Cheaters.

However, a good idea is one thing; the script and plot have to be up to par in order for the film to succeed. In films like this concerning conmen and the like, the story has to be clever. To keep the viewer entertained, the protagonists have to outsmart the already quite clever target. Regardless of setting their sights small, the execution of their plan has to be something that will get the viewer thinking, "Now that was smart!!", making the viewer truly believe that this is what those people do for a living, and they are damn good at it. This is where The Cheaters falters. I did believe that the characters were all good at what they were doing, but there was nothing in what they were doing to keep the viewer entertained. The just got in to a company, chatted up some women, put a few false records in a database and that was pretty much it. That may be the more real life way of doing it, but from a viewers perspective we want glammed up real life. Setting the target small gave the viewers something to relate to real life with, but the execution required cinema.

With an apparent villain in their conman nemesis who is going for the huge con, there is a little back and forward between them where the villain seems to have the upper hand, which set the scene well for the underdogs to come through and top his efforts in the end. Again this needed to be clever, but what we see is something so mundane and convenient, the word "anti-climax" is no where near strong enough. It is a complete let down and nothing else. Granted that is not the end of the film, there are other twists in the plot as loyalties are tested, but by that time I was just counting down the minutes till the film ended.

It isn't all bad. There are some parts of The Cheaters that are good and that is mainly in the opening third where the characters are being introduced and the con being set up. I was interested and fairly excited about what was to come. It was this positive opening that made the let down all the more worse. Had the film been dull all the way through I probably wouldn't have been as annoyed!

I am a fan of Jordan Chan; however most of the films I've seen him in have been quite poor so I can't for the life of me remember why. Something about his character I find makes him quite watchable in films. It is a little the same here, although for every film of his that I see that sucks it is becoming less and less so, his character helps bring the relationship between the five con artists along. The rest of the cast are quite good too, particularly Alex Fong and Simon Lui although no one is stretched or reaches the potential their character offered, the latter most certainly the case for Simon Lui. He had the image of a good villain and maybe just needed to be more so and the film would have been raised a notch.

As it is, The Cheaters is a below average film. It could have been great if it had had the intelligence of a sophisticated heist film, but it doesn't. That's a disappointment.

Audio & Subtitles
The Cantonese DD 5.1 track is reasonably good. The surrounds are used well, with cars driving off screen and into the front and rear speakers. Most of the audio appeared from centre though, but when used the surrounds are used well. Volume balance was good and all speech was clear.

The subtitles were rather typical of a Universe release. Grammar and spelling errors were present throughout, but not too frequent and not to an extent that the text was rendered incomprehensible.

Quality
The film print was alright. Detail wasn't overly sharp as at times the screen did look a little too soft, but not distractingly so. There was a little bit of grain present on the transfer and the odd speckle too. Colours seemed quite washed out in certain scenes, but decent in others. A bit of a mixed bag really.

DVD &Extras
The DVD contains nothing but Stars' Files on Alex Fong, Jordan Chan and Simon Lui, in both English and Chinese, and the film's trailer.

Overall
Intelligent films are great. Rather than switching off your brain when watching they make you think and stimulate you in ways a glossy, hi-octane, explosion-fest never will. Intelligent films are thankfully getting more common. The Cheaters pales by comparison next to them. If the execution of the plot had been more intelligent, maybe this could have stood proudly alongside them, but based on what I saw, it can't.

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All review content copyrighted © (2003-2009) Kris Wojciechowski

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