Review: “Master of Play” (By Miriamfanz)

Master of Play<心戰>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2012

Producer: Jonathan Chik
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Number of episodes: 30

Moses Chan as “Cheung Sai Yin” 
Adam Cheng as “Kan Siu Nam”
Maggie Shiu as “Esther”
Kenny Wong as “Eric”
Aimee Chan as “Cheung Sai Ting”
Rachel Kan as “Michelle”
Rebecca Chan as “Mok Lai Hing” 


*Contains Spoilers*

Plot Summary

Adam is obsessed with finding his kidnapped daughter. Maggie’s hand was chopped off by a psycho killer. Moses is controlled by four weird people who don’t even exist. Aimee runs around crying and yelling and being annoying. People die. 


I was looking forward to this series. So what if Producer Chik’s previous dramas set records for lowest ratings? This is different! Right and wrong! Yeah, it’s a new theme, new setting, but a very Jonathan Chik feel. Dim lighting? Check. Long-winded dialogue? Present. Ambivalent meaning? Yes. Moses and Kenny? Definitely.

This series is supposed to talk about humanity and consequences of falling into bad habits. If the thesis is that humans are psycho, then I’d say it was portrayed pretty well. Moses imagines psycho people, Adam becomes psycho, Maggie is a psycho killer, Aimee can see the tree change colours. I’m surprised I didn’t go crazy myself after watching this.  

Not everything you see is real. A lot of things are constructed in the minds of Moses and Adam. I like the technique they used. It cuts from one thing to another, mixing two unrelated scenes together to evoke your imagination. It also keeps you constantly guessing. But at the same time, you might feel really lost about what’s happening. The audience is led to believe many things and then there’s a big twist. For the majority of the series, the set-up is that Aimee is Adam’s long-lost daughter. When she admits to this, you’re like “Yes! I’m right!” and then she goes “Haha, just kidding! I’m not his daughter.” Then as he’s dying, Moses declares “You’ll never know what happens to your daughter.” Huh? Same situation when Maggie turned out to be the Wednesday killer. The audience is left in a daze. I find this both brilliant and frustrating. 

The story leaves a lot of room for guessing. Some things are supposed to be implied and some things you have to think really hard to understand. The lingering questions: Does Adam die in the end? Is Aimee his daughter or not? Did Kenny & Co. ever exist in real life? Is Maggie the real Wednesday killer as she claims? Why did she hook up with Adam if she still loves Moses? And what’s up with Aimee’s ability to see the tree change colours?   

The setting, like I said, is really Jonathan Chik – as in dark. It’s as if none of his productions ever have a lighting crew. The characters speak in circles; they never just say things directly. Very similar to his previous dramas where the long dialogue brings out some kind of deep meaning if you can actually stay awake to hear the whole thing. No wonder the housewives in Hong Kong didn’t like it. The costumes and make-up are plain weird for the people at the Jekyll bar, especially Kenny and Rachel. But I guess this is fitting because they’re weird people to begin with. The sand paintings at the end of each episode is very unique.

For me, it’s always plot over acting. Plus the veteran cast had no problems with acting anyways. Special compliments go to Adam, since he had to portray so many different personalities when his character immersed himself into the mentality of other people. Adam expertly handled everything thrown at him. The only glaring exception was Aimee. She sounded like she had a stuffed nose when she talked. Not helping things is her pronunciation and sometimes she slurred the words together, so it makes it hard to hear what she’s saying. 

Last thing I want to say is that this series received a lot of complaints for being bloody and terrifying. I find them unwarranted. There weren’t many bloody scenes after the opening ten minutes. And this series was hardly terrifying. It was being branded as such, but it turned out to be mostly talking. Probably should have been less than 30 episodes so things can move along faster. 

Recommendation:  Watchable

This review is written by Miriamfanz, a Contributing Writer at Visit Miriamfanz’s blog!

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  1. Thanks to Miriamfanz’ review. It’s quite humorous and likely summed up the majority of the fans’ reactions to this show.

    1. This is my first attempt at writing reviews, so please do give feedback.

      Thank you Jayne for letting me post there!

  2. Maybe this series is like an allegory for drugs, everyone seems to be on drugs perhaps?

  3. HMM..sounds like a plot or rather technique reused and rewashed. Lewis Carroll perfected it with Alice in Wonderland. One too many late nights smoking that happy pot. Then everyone hails it as a masterpiece. I guess we’re too embarrassed to admit that we’ve had NO idea what he’s written. Same goes

  4. I thought it was very interesting and well acted. That being said, I’m normally a huge Chik fan but still could not make it past episode 19 because the dark content of the story was making me successively more depressed as I watched. I feel like I need to be in super happy mood to just even out after watching.

  5. Nice review Miriamfanz, yes it would have been better if it has 20 or 25 episode. I like this series in general, feeling that it is elegant and decent in terms of production, and it’s story is meaningful, although it is wierd to say Maggie is a psycho killer.

    I end up realised why it is ‘Master of Play’, to me, it was focusing about Adam, the Master, and what is going on in his mind. The dear thoughts of his daughter,and his change and the plot for the ending, Adam has convincing acting.

    I think Aimee is fine with her Cantonese, she did well. Matt Yung is very handsome in this series. Moses, his assistant Kelly, and those 4 wierd characters are enjoyable to watch.

    Chan sau choo (Adam’s wife) was great, i never get bored with any characters she portrays. Dickson, (her son) was good too in the scene where Aimee kissed her under the tree.

  6. I like your review. Your writing has a serious yet a humorous side to it. Though I am more on how actors act than plot, but with this plot I cant say much… however, i do have to agree with your comment on Aimee’s poor delivery.

  7. Miriamfanz

    Though I watched only a few episodes of “Master of Play”, I enjoyed reading your review.

    I am also a plot-over-acting person. I was not too keen of the plots in the drama series.

    I watched the first episode, and found that it was quite bloody and horrible, I lost my interest in going on. I watched some other episodes later, and found the flow was super slow. I almost fell asleep when I was listening to Adam’s dialogues.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your review. Keep up your nice job.

  8. Yeah!! I love your review too!!
    And I too, among the minority that enjoy this drama!!

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