Saturday, January 1, 2011

In short: Satan Returns (1996)

Original title: 666 Mo Gwai Fuk Wut

aka Devil 666

aka Satan's Return

aka Shaolin vs. The Devil's Omen

Hong Kong, 1996. A guy and host of a demonic entity subtly named Judas (Francis Ng) is desperately looking for Satan's daughter. He only knows that she must have been born on the 6th of June 1969, so he wanders around the city, "testing" the devilishness of women with the appropriate birthdate by cutting their hearts out. Satan's daughter, you see, would live on without one.

Fortunately, even the HK movie police realizes that the killings are the work of a serial killer, so they put the homicidal cop Nam (Donny Yen) and his band of incompetents on the case. Because she has grown up as an orphan under the tutelage of the Catholic church, internal affairs officer Chan Shou-Ching (Chingmy Yau) who was just starting an investigation into the dubious human rights record of Nam, is helping out on the case, which turns out to be especially useful when Judas activities begin to concentrate on her.

During the course of the investigation, Chan starts to suffer first from oh-so-mysterious nightmares, then from personality changes, and then begins to have little chats with the off-screen voice of Satan, who seems quite positive that she's his daughter and will soon awaken to her heritage. And he just might be right.

What happens to Chan does of course mean that the whole murder series the film's plot is based on makes no sense at all, and that all Satan's forces would need to do to win the day would be to just wait until their big daddy's daughter comes into her own, but what can you expect from a script written by Wong Jing? "Written" seems like a very strong word for this thing anyway. I suspect that the scriptwriting process consisted of Wong Jing taking the scripts of Seven and one or two of the movie's rip-offs, and those of a few Omen-style horror films, ripping out random pages, throwing them in the air and then randomly stacking them together again, adding scribbles like "add Donnie Yen's showcase #1 fight here", "add tit joke #353 here" and "needs more incompetence". On the positive side, he forgot to add his trademark rape jokes.

So yes, Satan Returns is hardly what one would call coherent (or, if one has a grumpy day "a movie"), but just a random conglomeration of crap that just happened to land in the same script and then got directed with distractible nervousness by a directorial non-entity named Lam Wai-Lun (who seems pretty excellent at self-sabotage and even manages to ruin Yen's two and a half theoretically awesome fight scenes by more obfuscating than staging them).

Fortunately for my mood, some of the crap the film consists of is pretty funny - I always love the HK interpretations of Christian theology - and/or so merrily insane that it's impossible to argue with the film's will to entertain. I mean, how many serial killer/satanist movies are there in which one of the cop's plans fails because they're distracted from watching a colleague playing decoy by the aftereffects of painful flirting attempts over the decoy's hidden microphone and the following shouting match with a colleague (I said these people are incompetent, right?). Plus, the grand finale has Donnie Yen crucifying the enthusiastically scenery-chewing Francis Ng. And if that's not a reason to watch a movie, I don't know what is.


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