films seen
average score
Alive and kicking
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Painted Skin

Hoa Bi
2022 / 83m - China
Fantasy, Romance
Painted Skin poster

A truly capable adaptation of the Painted Skin story. Expectations are generally tempered when watching one of these contemporary Chinese streamer films. While fun, they pretty much always lack a level of polish that keeps them from ever becoming personal favorites. I will say that this new Painted Skin came awfully close. Liu Chen is definitely one to watch.

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Two demons want to infiltrate the human world, their hideous faces don't work in their favor, though. And so they seek out a spell that fixes their looks and turns them into alluring women. While the spell is effective enough, it's still not easy to conceal their true identities, certainly not when a demon hunter arrives in town and sniffs them out.

This new take reminded me quite a bit of Hark Tsui's Green Snake. The costumes and sets looks absolutely stunning, the cinematography is lovely, and the plot brings a fine mix of fantasy, horror and romance. The CG remains somewhat problematic and not all the actors offer an equally great performance, but give Chen a few more films and I wouldn't be surprised to see a true personal favorite from his hands.

The Vengeance

2021 / 80m - China
Fantasy, Action
The Vengeance poster

I've seen a bunch of these mid-long Chinese martial arts flicks over the past two years, and it still one big lottery for me. The Vengeance turned out to be one of more accomplished ones, though its attempts to tell a more elaborate and intricate story come with their own set of challenges.

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Yuan Rui is about to get married, but what should become a happy day turns into a massacre. Her entire family is murdered, everyone except Rui, who is saved by a masked man. All she can think of is revenge, but she isn't skilled enough to take on her assailants. Luckily, she gets help from a friend.

The presentation is neat, the martial arts scenes are polished, the sets look somewhat more expensive and the slightly longer runtime (still well below 90 minutes though) gives the director more time to flesh out the plot. It's not quite as dynamic as the shorter efforts, but martial arts/fantasy fans will find plenty to like here.

Fist of Legend

2019 / 76m - China
Fist of Legend poster

A remake of the respected Jet Li classic. It's never been my favorite Jet Li film, certainly not when looking at all the other Hong Kong martial arts films he made during the early 90s. I'm certainly not really surprised to see a Chinese remake of this title, as it harbors a very nationalistic message.

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Chen Zhen is sent to Japan to learn from his enemies. Once there, he sees the Japanese are cracking down on Chinese dojos and a masked man is standing up for their honor. At first, the Japanese assume Zhen is the masked fighter, but someone else is pretending to be from Zhen's school.

The dub is a little off-putting and the drama doesn't work too well, luckily, the action scenes are pretty impressive. Tiger Xu is no Jet Li, but the apt camera work and slick editing really add some power to the fights. It's nice and short too, making this a pretty solid though somewhat forgettable upgrade of Li's classic.