Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A battalion of blood thirsty, ruthless bandits have apparently captured a beautiful woman who we will come to know as Xiaowei (Xun Zhou), covered in only a sheepskin blanket with the boss of this gang claiming her as his own and taking her off into the back room to enjoy the spoils of his conquest. Meanwhile outside their compound General Wang Shen (Kun Chen) leads his men on a sneak attack to snuff out these thieves, and successfully accomplish this task, then General Shen storms the main complex and observes this beautiful woman in peril, or so he thought, and ‘rescues’ her. The attraction between the two was instantaneous as Xiaowei is immediately drawn to the man whose makeup foundation, lip gloss and eyes shadow manages to outshine even her own flawless facial couture. If Shen was paying attention he would’ve noticed that the leader of this crew of bandits was dead before he got there, his heart missing from his chest cavity, which should’ve prompted him to ask ‘I wonder who did this’? You see where I’m sitting, with only two people being in the room, either the sweet looking hottie did this or he did it to himself. It’s Shen’s failure to ask this critical question which is the launch pad for director Gordon Chan’s erratically entertaining horror / thriller / comedy / action / romance ‘Painted Skin’.

So Brother Shen brings this woman to the village and almost immediately his wife Peirong (Wei Zhao) knows something ain’t right with her. First of all she has eyes on her man, secondly everybody in town automatically is drawn to her and thirdly she personally witnessed a deep cut on the woman heal automatically. Not to mention the minute Xiaowei got to town folks started turning up dead with their hearts torn out of their chests. Peirong tells her concerns to her old boyfriend Brother Yong (Donnie Yen) who has returned to the clan after abandoning his role of leader and wandering the earth in a drunken stupor for the last two years. A vagabond girl that Brother Yong

has picked up along the way, Xai Bing (Betty Sun) a self professed Demon Hunter, informs the pair that this woman is indeed a demon and the missing hearts is what she needs to eat to keep her human skin nice and fresh. And considering we’ve seen what the woman looks like without her skin, we highly recommend that they keep those hearts coming.

All our demon hottie really wants is Brother Shen’s love, but that’s going to be difficult because Shen is still Krazy about his depressed wife Peirong who just wants her man to be happy – even it means having a demon for a concubine though nobody outside of Brother Yong and our young Demon Hunter believes that Xaiowei is a demon. Still desperate to get what she wants Xiaowei has to escalate her plan slightly in a most unfortunate and tragic way to get what she wants, and believe me when we tell you, this woman plays the game for keeps.

As ‘Painted Skin’ started I was getting a little concerned as this films was less than stellar in its presentation, coming off a lot like of those those nutty Chinese vampire comedy flicks that we used to see in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The movie opens in starts and fits, like an old car on a really cold day, mainly because there are so many different genre’s that this movie is dabbling with that it takes a while for the film to find any kind of early rhythm.

However once all of the main characters fall into place and the plot elements become more clear, still recognizing that ‘Painted Skin’ is a movie still trying to be five things at once, this thing becomes addictively entertaining. A large part of the charm of this movie lies in the performances of the female characters with Xun Zhou leading the way as our most scurrilous villainess, part puppy dog, part cobra and all bad. She was obviously having a good time playing the role of the demon Xaiowei and had no problem vacillating between the weak, distressed damsel and vicious cannibalistic murderess. Betty Sun was also very good as the spunky Demon Hunter and Wei Zhao gives the film its heart with her sad performance as the forlorn wife, particularly when she goes ‘Bride with White Hair’ on us.

The men on the other hand I’m not to sure about. Donnie Yen can probably kick just about anybody’s ass, but here he was inserted largely for comic relief and we didn’t get to see nearly enough of Donnie doing what we’re used to seeing Donnie do. Kun Chen made a passable tragic hero but goodness my man was wearing a lot of make-up. He was cuter than the trio of lovely women in this movie. What’s up with that?

The last two movies I saw from Director Chan in ‘The Medallion’ and ‘Undercover Hidden Dragon’ I really didn’t care for too much but such isn’t the case with ‘Painted Skin’. It is flawed, it is erratic and it has no idea what kind of movie it wants to be but it is beautifully shot, has some wonderful, genuine performances and part of its charm is the fact that it's almost every conceivable movie genre wrapped in one. Probably a guilty pleasure, but ‘Painted Skin’, at least in my opinion, was a pleasure nonetheless.

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