Review: A CHINESE GHOST STORY 倩女幽魂 (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 16 May 2011

Review: A CHINESE GHOST STORY 倩女幽魂 (2011)


Ching Siu-Tung and Tsui Hark's A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987) was a landmark classic of Hong Kong cinema that successfully mixed different genre of supernatural elements, romance, comedy, horror and over-the-top action all rolled into one slick package. Remaking such classic is certainly an uphill task for any director trying to achieve. But IP MAN 2 (2010) director Wilson Yip dares to take the challenge and frankly, I'm really curious how far he can do to top the original or at least making the remake as good as the original. However, as one of the most highly-anticipated Hong Kong blockbuster movies of the year, A CHINESE GHOST STORY (also known as A CHINESE FAIRY TALE in certain countries) is a huge disappointment that failed to achieve either of them.

The movie begins with a hastily-told prologue about the doomed romance between a reputable demon slayer Yan Chi Xia (Louis Koo) tainted his own image after falling in love with a beautiful demon named Siu Sin (Liu Yifei). Naturally Yan knows that human and demon cannot lived together but he has no intention to kill her whatsoever. Instead he erased her memory of their relationship and set her free, an unwise decision which doesn't sit well with his rival demon slayer Liu (Fan Siu-Wong) who later lost one of his arms during a brief fight against the notorious Tree Demon (Kara Hui).

Enter Ning Caichen (Yu Shaoqun), a wimpy government officer arrives at the rural area of Black Mountain village and discovers that the village is suffering from drought. The head of the village (Elvis Tsui, who appeared in the original version of the movie) is hoping that Ning can help them to find the water supply. And the only possible water supply Ning can find is to scale the Black Mountain above -- which happens to be the major problem for fellow villagers seemingly afraid to do so. Only a handful of villagers, mostly the convicts, are willing to follow Ning up to the mountain. Ning eventually finds the water supply located deep inside a temple, and at the same time encountered Siu Sin in which he subsequently falls in love with her. Trouble arises when Tree Demon, who is now a tyranny ruled over the Black Mountain and owned the souls of the demon including the one belonging to Siu Sin, finds out about the existence of Ning and desperately wants to feed on his soul at all cost. But Siu Sin helps him to escape as far as they can, where they are subsequently encountered Yan, who is now a bearded demon slayer still on the hunt to kill demons.

Right from the beginning, the movie has already suffer with terribly incoherent narrative structure. No thanks to Cheung Tan's haphazard script, the story drags too much with endless expositions between Yan, Siu Sin and Ning in a supposedly heated love triangle that really goes nowhere. It doesn't help either when the dialogues are awfully-written and all those moments of unintentional humor feel largely awkward. For an hour-plus, A CHINESE GHOST STORY is a long-winded and repetitive slog that one would left baffled for a capable director like Wilson Yip can end up such a whimper. All said and done, this is obvious that genre mishmash required for a movie like this isn't exactly Yip's forte after all.

The cast, in the meantime, are downright forgettable. None of them matched the inspired performances from the late Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong in the 1987 original at all. Instead we get a terribly miscast Louis Koo as the ill-fated demon slayer who looks unconvincing whenever he requires to emote a lot. Not only that, it's hard to take his character seriously especially with his fake-looking bearded appearance. Mainland actor Yu Shaoqun fares even worse as Ning Caichen. He may have the ideal wimpy look of a naive character but his lackluster acting is such an insult to Leslie Cheung's far more remarkable performance. Veteran Kara Hui hams up her over-the-top performance as Tree Demon who shrieks and laughs a lot. If anyone else are least worthwhile, it's Liu Yifei's fairly alluring performance and Fan Siu-Wong's energetic performance.

The final hour of the movie are among the least entertaining moments that worth to watch for. The energetic swordplay battle between Yan and Liu in the village, as well as the climactic battle against the Tree Demon, are superbly choreographed by Ma Yuk-Sing. These scenes are certainly a wake-up call for those who feel frustrated over the course of the duration shown earlier, but then again it's hardly enough to justify this as a worthy addition to the 1987 original.


Crosby Kenyon said...

Fantasy is often difficult to get right. I don't think you can have equal portions of several genres and expect to totally succeed.

caseymoviemania said...

I agree with you, Crosby. But then again, you have to admit that director Wilson Yip is clearly out of his element here. He only excels during the final hour. But earlier on, his direction is haphazard and the story is especially fails to utilize the love triangle between the three characters.