Review: PAINTED SKIN 畫皮 (2008) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: PAINTED SKIN 畫皮 (2008)


RATING: 1/5


A major disappointment for what supposed to be one of Hong Kong's heavily-anticipated blockbuster events of the year, and a double whammy for poor Donnie Yen who has earlier appeared in a lame big-budget period action romance, AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS. 

 
In this poorly-executed adaptation of one of most beloved classic literature, "Strange Tales of Liaozhai" by writer Pu Songling that centers on fox spirits (it has been adapted twice for the big screen twice -- once in 1966 and again in 1993 by the legendary Hong Kong director King Hu, which originally starred Joey Wong as the evil demon), the film begins with the heroic young and handsome general Wang Sheng (Aloys Chen) rescuing the angelic-looking Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) from a group of barbarians in the desert. He feels sympathy for her and decides to bring her back home. But what Wang Sheng doesn't really know, and so the rest of his armies, is that Xiaowei is actually a fox spirit in disguise. In order to maintain herself in beautiful humanly form, she must consume human hearts and usually she gets help by a lizard spirit (Qi  Wuyu) who doesn't mind get his hand dirty in order to feed her. Soon it doesn't take long before Xiaowei starts to fall in love with Wang Sheng and thus, the conflict of love triangle begins to spread between her, Wang Sheng and his dutiful wife, Pei Rong (Vicky Zhao Wei). Pei Rong begins to suspect that Xiaowei is not what she claimed she is, but unfortunately she can't provide any solid evidence. That's not all, ex-general Pang Yong (Donnie Yen) who once has a secret crush with Pei Rong, and one-time rival of Wang Sheng for her affections, and a bumbling lowly "demon buster" Xia Bin (Betty Sun Li) are soon thrown in a mix, as both of them are later hired to find and destroy the evil demon who has claimed some of Wang Sheng's armies died horribly with their hearts being removed out. 
On the surface, it seems that PAINTED SKIN is refreshing enough to see that Hong Kong's once-popular supernatural romance made a timely comeback. But if you're expecting such genre classic by the likes of A CHINESE GHOST STORY will be gravely disappointed. 
Despite a number of reliable casts and competent director in the hand of Gordon Chan, PAINTED SKIN is surprisingly so weak as if the entire film is done by first-timer or worst still, amateurish. As a supernatural genre, the film fails to deliver the necessary fright and interest, since the CGI effects are so bad-looking it's plain laughable. 
As a film that supposed to be focusing primarily on the romance side, there are little passion ignited between the love triangle of Wang Sheng, Xiaowei and Pei Rong since the story is so haphazardly written and shockingly long-winded it's almost a crushing bore. On the comedy side, the film feels terribly awkward with cheesy music score while the action sequences are so poorly-edited that you might end up scratching your head that whether Gordon Chan sleepwalks during the production or not. 
And despite the appearance of Donnie Yen, action fans will also be disappointed by the restraint of his usual brooding, no-nonsense persona into someone on the lighter side -- yes, you read it right -- and that means Yen cools off and attempts to show more his humorous self. Not surprisingly, his attempt is a huge failure. For both Zhou Xun and Vicki Zhao Wei, there are some credible performances somewhere between them but only it's too bad the poor script crippled them altogether. Aloys Chen, on the other side, is so bland that his supposedly lead acting feels almost non-existent. 
For all the rotten side this film gets, it's rather a shocking surprise that Hong Kong has picked this mishmash garbage as their country's official entry for 2009's Oscars. God help us all.

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