Film Review: Painted Skin: The Resurrection

While hardly the stuff of mall-multiplex blockbusters, director Wu Ershan&#8217;s (<i>The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman</i>) fantasy-romance-action picture is an epic feast for fans of Chinese fairy-tale movies, from the stunning visuals to the su

More a companion piece than a sequel to 2008's Painted Skin, in which a fox demon—a seductive spirit who preys on men, literally stealing their hearts (the better to eat them)—commits the cardinal sin of the demon world and falls in love with a human, Painted Skin: The Resurrection begins with fox demon Xiaowei's (Zhou Xun) rescue from deathlike imprisonment in a block of ice. Her unlikely hero is bird demon Quer (Yang Mi)—you'd think a bird demon would look like, oh, a turkey vulture, not a cute little yellow and black finch, but you'd be wrong.

Both Quer and Xiaowei can assume the form of beautiful young women; or more correctly, they can "paint" the skin of a human being over their demon forms. Quer and Xiaowei roam China's countryside and walled cities together in search of hearts to devour, and men intoxicated by Xiaowei's beauty are easy pickings. But the resurrected Xiaowei wants something more: She wants to become mortal, which requires that a man willingly give up his heart to her.

The cast of characters rapidly expands to include a demon hunter (Feng Shaofeng) who's better at thrilling children with scary stories about monsters who look just like ordinary people (fortunately, he owns an unprepossessing green bottle that lights up when there's one in the vicinity) than actually waging war on them; the once-beautiful warrior Princess Jing (Zhao Wei), whose face is hideously scarred, the damage hidden behind a golden Phantom of the Opera-style half mask; and handsome General Huo Xin (Chen Kun), whom Jing has loved for years, even though as a palace guard he—to his everlasting shame—failed to prevent the teenage princess from being mauled by a bear.

Based on a traditional Chinese folk tale, Painted Skin: The Resurrection was released in China both flat and in 3D (the U.S. release is flat only) and was a huge hit, especially with women. And it's easy to see why: While it packs plenty of muscular action into a 130-minute running time, it's all about the ladies, all of whom are exquisitely beautiful, formidable ass-kickers and still as bedeviled by man trouble as any counter girl or waitress—if a glamorous, centuries-old, foxy fox demon can get her heart dragged around (figuratively, this time), well then, there's no reason for little mouse-burgers to be ashamed of their romantic woes.