PAINTED SKIN (2008) review

Wang Sheng (Chen Kun) is a general who rescues a young woman named Xiao Wei (Zhou Xun) during a raid against desert bandits. Hearing that she is alone in the world he takes her as one of his household’s servants back home. But quickly after her arrival, people are found dead in the city, their hearts ripped off. Wang’s wife Peirong (Zhao Wei) suspects Xiao Wei, but the latter has won everyone over with a kindness. When Wang’s brother Pang Yong (Donnie Yen) comes back from a two-year absence, Peirong begs him to investigate the matter, which he does, with the help of Xia Bin (Sun Li), a young woman pretending to be a “demon-buster”. Adapted from Pu Songling’s short stories in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, Gordon Chan’s Painted Skin was a big hit in Asia, as well as Hong Kong’s submission for the Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2008. But this latter bidd for worlwide recognition fell flat, and understandably so : Gordon Chan’s film is a ghost story, but one that follows conventions quite alien to western ones.

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THE LEGEND OF SPEED (1999) review

In the years following the 1997 retrocession of Hong Kong, when there were concerns over the fate of the Hong Kong film industry, one artistic collaboration was a beacon of hope, churning out nearly two films every year, most of them big hits : director Andrew Lau and actor/singer Ekin Cheng. Hot off the considerable success of Storm Riders and A Man Called Hero, they again collaborated on The Legend of Speed in 1999. It is surprising to see how similar The Legend of Speed is to the Fast & Furious films, and at the same time to note that Andrew Lau’s film actually pre-dates Rob Cohen’s first installment of the famous street-racing franchise. So this is not a case of Hong Kong cinema ripping off Hollywood successes. But the basic ingredients are the same : bad boys going toe to toe in street races, surrounded by hot babes. The main difference would be that there is no criminal dimension in The Legend of Speed ; it is more of a genuine sports film.

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