Painted Skin 2008 -A supernatural Chinese classical story based on myths believed by common people

Painted Skin is about love, coming from the same author who wrote the story behind The Fox Lovers Movie deriving from Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio. It is a supernatural Chinese classical story based on myths and legends believe by common people in that era. That is demons, fox spirits and supernatural powers exist in the backdrop of unorthodox Taoist beliefs to deal with them.

In Painted Skin, a warrior rescues a demon who disguise herself as a victim of bandits. She was at the point of getting rape when the warrior rescue her. They fall in love at the point of him rescuing her from the bandits. He brings her home and takes her in as a family member. The tension in the story lies with the fact that the warrior is already marry to a woman, and he believes that he has to remain loyal. When in fact, he is in love with the young girl.

In the events that unfold, they find themselves in situations that push the norms of love and marriage conventions at that era.

More fantasy romance than all out kung fu badassery (though there is a little bit of that) ‘Painted Skin’ might not be what you were expecting from action star Donnie Yen and Gordon Chan. The director of Jet Li’s magnificent ‘Fist of Legend’. Based on the writings of Liao Zai. ‘Painted Skin’ sees General Wang Shen (Chen Kun) leading a raid on a camp of desert bandits who are holding the mysterious and beautiful Xiao Wei (Zhou Xun) hostage. Rescuing her, General Shen whisks her back to his fortify city offering her protection and a place to stay.

However, there is a demon spirit (Qi Yu-Wu) at large in the city

A demon who just so happens to be controll by Xiao Wei. Also newly arrived in the city is Pang (Donnie Yen) a former commander in Shen’s army. She has return from battle with wannabe demon-hunter Xia Bing (Betty Sun) in tow. The two are ask to hunt down the demon terrorizing the city. That is a hunt soon uncovers Wei’s malicious plans for Shen and his beautiful wife Peirong (Zhao Wei).

Although the above sounds a little all over the place proceedings play out in a relative linear fashion the complex relationships and intentions of the leading characters giving the film its meat. The horror element is all but played down (despite the fact one of the characters eats human hearts in order to stay alive!) with the romantic fantasy aspect being the main angle of the film.

Some may be disappointed by this approach but for the most part it works

The characters engaging enough to make you care despite the fact the makers can’t get away from too many scenes being dragged out to melodramatic proportions. While there is a nice balance of fantasy, romance and action a good ten or fifteen minutes could have been shaved off the run time in order to make everything a littler tighter.

However, despite the slow burn romantic nature, ‘Painted Skin’ still delivers on the slick entertainment front. There is no denying this is a good-looking film. Beautifully filmed with CGI enhances (mainly used when a demon is fighting or revealing themselves) kept to a refreshing minimum. With the impressive locations, remarkable production design and some crisp and crunchy fight choreography, it’s nice to see so many aspects being kept practical.

Donnie Yen is probably the main reason many will see this

While he doesn’t really dominate proceedings it’s good to see him playing more of a joker (and a scruffy one at that!) rather than another ultra-cool, badass, super-fighter. Ok, he is still a badass super-fighter, just not as showy this time around. Yen does get to cut loose in some awesome fights scenes co-ordinated by legendary action director Tung Wei (‘Dao’, ‘Seven Swords’).

Zhou Xun is also memorable as the conniving Xiao Wei and Chan and his crew must be commended for making a fantasy film that isn’t continually rammed to the rafters with ridiculous CGI. The restraint works well in the film’s favour even. If it does tend to drag in the second half before things finally pick up for the spectacular showdown. Not to everyone’s tastes, could have been a little shorter and hardcore Yen fans may be let down by the lack of dynamic hand-to-hand combat (it being much more weapon and high-flying based here). But ‘Painted Skin’ is still a stylish slice of fantasy filmmaking.

I truly enjoyed the movie

Especially the pool scene which finally expressed the authentic feelings of the husband. Although he keeps denying what is there. That he is truly in love with the demon by having a vivid dream of her in a red dress, going into a hidden pool behind a cave. And making love in the passionately in an illicit romance that existed as a fantasy but he could not enact in reality due to the fact he was married.

It was the moment of revelation in the whole movie that the husband was pretending that there was nothing going on. He didn’t consider the young girl as his lover. But he kept it so hidden well in his thoughts to be a good husband and general, to the extent he sacrificed his own freedom and expression of love by declining to take on a mistress. Which, was the biggest mistake he made for he could have a wife and a mistress and it would be what he actually wanted, instead of his pretence that he had to prove he is “better than that”.


Rating: NR
Genre: Action & Adventure, Art House & International, Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Gordon Chan
Stars: Donnie Yen, Xun Zhou, Kun Chen
Written By: Gordon Chan, Ho Leung Lau, Abe Kwong
In Theaters: Sep 25, 2008 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Dec 16, 2008
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Shanghai Film Group

MrJago ★★★★
Movie’s visually gorgeous and Zhou Xun is excellent. She’s got such a great screen presence and seems to know things you don’t.

There is a moment at the end that would play completely different in a Hollywood movie and I really like that male/female role reversal.

Hotsake ★★★★
The movie starts off a little shakes but once the melodrama starts it gets real good real fast. Yes there is some action & fantasy in this movie but it is really a Drama/Melodrama. Wei Zhao & Kun Chen give strong performances and are really believable in a Melodrama kind of way. Xun Zhou is amazing and I will be checking out more of her films. Donnie Yen is the best part of this movie, maybe because he is a supporting character and doesn’t have to shoulder the entire picture, but he seems more relaxed and able to have a lot more fun with his role. I really liked the movie and loved the end theme.

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