In 2012, I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute a piece to Teleport City’s “Punch The Devil In The Face” month. I wrote on Wong Jing’s Satan Returns (1996) starring Chingmy Yau and Donnie Yen. I was psyched to write for Teleport City and pretty pleased with how the piece turned out.
Here’s the first little bit of it.
Back in 1996, it seemed so unlikely that of all the action heroes in Hong Kong, Donnie Yen would be the one called on to foil Satan’s foul schemes. But now it makes a strange kind of sense that Donnie Yen would, well, not so much punch the Devil in his face as knee the Devil’s Envoy repeatedly in the ribs and once in the jaw, because here we are and Donnie Yen is the state-sponsored inheritor of Bruce Lee’s sifu and nunchaku. Who else is left?
You’re probably wondering if Donnie Yen uses a mixed martial arts philosophy to prevent the End Times. You might even be wondering whether Donnie Yen is pre- or post- Millennial in his understanding of the Rapture. But Satan Returns isn’t really a Donnie Yen movie, certainly not in the way Donnie Yen has been presenting himself in the last five or ten years. There is nary an open shirt, motorcycle jacket or MMA throwdown in sight. It is kind of like a current Donnie Yen film in that director Ah Lun doesn’t show the action in a continuous shot, but it’s less frenetic action cuts and more like Ah Lun suddenly realized he should be shooting just as Donnie Yen finishes kicking a guy.
Satan Returns is a Wong Jing film written for his favorite actress, Chingmy Yau. It’s actually a pretty good role for Chingmy Yau. Before she stopped making films in 1999, Yau starred in a lot of Wong Jing films, many had some variation of “Rape” and “Angel” in the title. In fact, according to the HKMDb, her last film was, Raped By An Angel 4: Raper’s Union. (Which I have never seen, what with my presumption that there would be raping, but I wonder about it. Do scabs get beat up by union rapists? What are the dues?). With no rape, and very little nudity, Satan Returns is mild in comparison to the angel/rape films. Chingmy Yau doesn’t really play the pretty girl and the camera — and the comic relief — don’t leer at her breasts the entire film. So she gets to act.
You can read it here.