Demon Hunter – The Resurrection (Cert 18)

1 Disc (Distributor: Cine-Asia) Running time: 131 minutes approx.

Five hundred years after her interment in ice, immortal fox demon Xiaowei (Zhou Xun) is freed by a bird demon Qu’er (Mini Yang). Tiring of needing to feed on human hearts to survive, Xiaowei believes that becoming a human will suit her better, but this can only happen on the night of a solar eclipse and if she can find a willing heart donor.

As fate would have it, Xiaowei happens across the facially scarred Princess Jing (Zhao Wei), a warrior who yearns for the love of her former guard General Huo (Aloys Chen), who she thinks is avoiding her because of her disfigured face. So, Xiaowei puts the offer on the table: a flawless new body in exchange for immortality.

There is a small chance the plot of this film – believe it or not the biggest grossing film in Chinese history – may sound oddly familiar to some of you; this is because it is a distant sequel to 2008’s Painted Skin. Indeed its original Chinese title is Painted Skin – The Resurrection but a title change for the UK was necessitated as distributor Cine-Asia don’t have the rights to Painted Skin (which was released over here with little fanfare and misleading cover art) making it a little spurious to promote a sequel to a film not in their catalogue.

However, aside from sharing some of the main cast from the first film (excluding martial arts legend Donnie Yen), this film can be viewed as a standalone with no prior knowledge necessary.

Only Zhou Xun reprises her role from Painted Skin with everyone else playing a new character. This story is set five hundred years after the original with a brief prologue to keep both new and returning viewers up to speed with Xiaowei’s escapades. Having been taken in by Princess Jing, who hides her scars beneath a golden mask, Xiaowei seizes her opportunity and ingratiates herself with the insecure royal, slowly getting into her head that General Huo is keeping his distance because he is only being interested looks.

The truth is that as Jing’s guard when she was younger, Huo failed to protect her from a bear attack and holds himself to blame for her injuries and lives with the guilt. Every the opportunist, Xioawei reveals her true identity as a fox demon to Jing then makes her offer. Jing is naturally reluctant so she gets a free trial and the two ladies literally swap skin allowing Jing, in Xiaowei’s body, to pay Huo a visit and seduce him to see how much of a typically superficial man he really is.

There is also a subplot in which Jing ahs been betrothed to the heir of the throne of the kingdom of Tian Lang, and although it ties in with the big finale, is one of the problems of this film – its lack of focus. Director Wuershan made his name with music videos and it shows here with the vibrant colours throughout and CGI heavy slips into surreal fantasy, along with the mis-mash of ideas thrown in with gleeful abandon.

This erratic narrative spread over the two hour plus running time might lose a few viewers along the way but Wuershan at least knows how to create visually arresting content to ensure the viewer doesn’t realise they’ve – excuse the phrase – lost the plot. The absence of Donnie Yen from this sequel means the action quotient is lessened but what do get is sufficiently entertaining if a little too reliant on modern technology to make it look more spectacular than it really is, but for a fantasy film the rulebook is usually thrown out the window anyway.

The film’s greatest appeal and its greatest assets are the two leading ladies, who literally ooze sensuality and sexuality from every scene they appear in together, as part of the commanding performances they give this film a much needed lift from the frivolity of its concept. While nothing comes of it, the implied Sapphic frisson between the two is surprisingly raunchy for the usually uptight China.

Despite not being explicit in any way, is a delightful sight for us male viewers without being gratuitous, since seduction is Xiaowei’s game and she needs to persuade Jing to be wiling to hand over her body. When they swap skin for the first time, the immediate change in personality and demeanour of each actress having swapped roles is sublime to watch; so convincing are they one does believe they have literally swapped bodies.

Zhou Xun has pretty much cornered the market for being the sultry seductress and radiates the requisite confidence but the revelation here is Zhao Wei who has played everything from a tomboy, to comic relief to a lonely singleton but not the devious vamp  –  until now.

The transformation is stunning and Wei is finally showing the gravitas someone of her tenure in the film business should have. The other main female here is Mini Yang as the bird demon Qu’er, whose role is mostly comic relief but she has an infectious energetic presence fit for such levity.

Demon Hunter – The Resurrection is structurally a mess, overlong and cram full of extraneous material. Thankfully the two central performances and well crafted visuals make this an entertaining enough fantasy romp to compensate for the obvious shortcomings. Its blend of elements should widen its appeal and ensure solid entertainment for anyone looking for some escapist hokum.



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Rating – ***

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