Not entirely a movie about getting a facelift, though a really ancient version of cosmetically going under the knife does seem to factor in, Painted Skin: The Resurrection is in fact a mystical Chinese epic as much about martial arts as a beauty makeover. And in the case of a centuries long curse tampering with female fate through a supernatural face transplant here, twenty is the new five hundred.
In this rather revisionist, special effects hyper-revved up feminist leaning version of ancient Chinese lore, Xun Zhou is Xiaowei. A femme fatale fox demon who has been around forever, but spent the last five hundred years in deep freeze trapped in a prison of ice as otherworldly punishment for unauthorized consorting with humans, Xiaowie is freed by a pecking bird. But Xiaowei’s fate is not quite resolved, as punishment in this case for saving a human can result in her sort of eternal occult probation, that could be revoked at any time.
In the meantime, Xiaowei bides her time necessarily keeping alive by feasting on literally stolen hearts swiped from human chests. When not seductively clutching alluring male hunks selected for their unusually high levels of body heat, that keep her not quite defrosted fetching anatomy from freezing up again. Though one such commando cross-dresser turns out to be a woman instead, none other than Princess Jing (Wei Zhao). A free lance fighter concealing more than her gender, Jing wears a gold plated mask covering facial scars sustained when confronted with a mauling bear.
And in more than one magical same sex reinvention of both women – in addition to a heartless for real, expiring enemy prince – assorted face and heart transplants ensue or nearly ensue, from both involuntary and voluntary organ donors alike. And having something really convoluted to do with a sulking palace soldier Huo Xi (Kun Chen), who seems to be the unfathomable object of desire for both women.
And if all of the above comes off nearly as exhausting for the audience as that endured by the warring participants in the many massive battle skirmishes throughout this overly long 131 minute marathon saga, well it seems to be. Along with the offscreen ordeal of keeping score when it comes to the immensely elusive multiple plot points. And especially concerning whose facelift is currently in vogue with the pouting military male magnet in question, and which ones have currently fallen out of fashion.
Which is not to say that the visuals gracing Painted Skin: The Resurrection – or rather the cosmetic reconstruction – aren’t continuously captivating, they are. And embodying without a doubt, a knack the Chinese have perfected in blockbuster movies that still leaves similar US fare quite far behind.
That is, how to combine the exquisitely crafted, leisurely imagery of poetically paced slow motion arthouse elegance with fast forward blunt action in a film. But in the case of director Wuershan’s Painted Skin: The Resurrection, its status as the biggest box office sensation in China to date aside, it’s a movie with the weight of a lot more in question, than what may have been lost in translation along the way.
Well Go USA Entertainment
2 1/2 stars