It's a little curious that the Chinese box office hit Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection, a martial arts historical epic, is being touted for its special effects when its CGI is one of its weakest elements. Directed by Wuershan from a slightly convoluted script by Ran Jianan and Ran Ping, the film's over-the-top visuals are sometimes stunning, but the datedness of many of the effects (an attack by a marauding bear is almost laughable) undercuts their cumulative power. That said, it's a treat to watch a propulsive tale that spins on feminine energy, and Painted is all about woman (not girl) power. After being freed from a sentence of 500 years of captivity in ice for saving a mortal man, a female fox demon (who feeds on the hearts of men) meets a mysterious, cross-dressing princess who pines for the bodyguard who failed to protect her many years before. He has thrown himself into his duties and refuses to violate rigid class codes by even contemplating marrying her, which leads the demon to offer the princess a deal whose fine print is, of course, potentially dire. Meanwhile, a seriously pissed-off queen from another kingdom is preparing to wage war on the princess for reneging on an arranged marriage with the queen's brother. And there's a comic-relief subplot in which a wacky demon hunter and a minor-level demon fall in love. The whole thing can be hard to follow, but the energy (and pulchritude) of the cast make it a perfectly fine bit of popcorn escapism. Ernest Hardy
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