Schemes In Antiques is an epic battle of wits with puzzles aplenty

·3-min read
Lei Jiayin as Xu Yuan in Schemes In Antiques. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Lei Jiayin as Xu Yuan in Schemes In Antiques. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Length: 123 minutes
Director: Derek Kwok
Cast: Li Xian, Xin Zhilei, Lei Jiayin
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles

In theatres from 9 December (Singapore)

3 out of 5 stars

Jumping on the recent bandwagon of Chinese tomb-raiding and puzzle-solving shows, like The Lost Tomb series and the Candle In The Tomb series, Schemes In Antiques is another such tantalising movie with a focus on antiques.

Adapted from the novel of the same title by Ma Boyong, Schemes In Antiques follows the story of Xu Yuan (Lei Jiayin), who inherits the talent for appraising ancient artefacts, but makes a simple living as the owner of a small electronics shop. Xu Yuan is forced to uncover the truth about a Tang Dynasty Buddha head, as he gets pulled into an all-out war over this priceless artefact.

Going up against Xu Yuan is Yao Buran (Li Xian), a gifted antique appraiser, who seeks the Buddha head for his own agenda. In an epic battle, the two face off to find out who can accurately and swiftly evaluate an array of artefacts.

Yao embodies the modern and seemingly more professional appraiser, with a neat suit, a pair of metal-rimmed glasses and white gloves to complete the look. He poses a stark contrast to the disheveled and half-awake Xu, who bears resemblance to Guan Ning, a character portrayed by Lei as well in A Writer’s Odyssey. But as cliched as it sounds, you can never judge Xu by his looks, as he holds comparable skills to Yao, if not better.

Both appraisers are in a constant fight to locate the real Buddha head, which is one of the highlights. The chemistry between the two actors sparks engaging scenes that are never awkward or boring to watch. In fact, one of the scenes even weaved in humorous interactions, which eased the serious nature of such mystery shows.

Li Xian as Yao Buran in Schemes In Antiques. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Li Xian as Yao Buran in Schemes In Antiques. (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)

Another highlight of Schemes In Antiques is the cryptic clues left behind by Xu’s father. The riddles, which tend to play on words and codes, may also remind you of The Lost Tomb series and the Candle In The Tomb series. They not only play a crucial role in the plot progress, but they'll tease your brain, making the film more entertaining. People who like solving puzzles will undoubtedly enjoy these segments.

However, the first riddle is actually a giveaway for the ending. Although you probably won’t be able to guess exactly how it comes into play in the ending, there is still an incessant nagging thought that this first riddle can’t be that simple. When everything is revealed, it feels like a wild goose chase, which regrettably spoils the whole experience of the film.

Although Schemes In Antiques is not an entirely bad film, and offers a journey filled with clever brainteasers, it could do better with a more satisfying revelation.

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