Satan Returns

 

1996 (Lead/Action Director)

(Selected: Fantasia Festival, Montreal, Canada)

Also known as Devil 666, the movie is Wong Jing’s version of Seven combined with Evil Dead and Silence of the Lambs. Yen plays a maverick detective named Mo
Ti-nam who exudes cool (nicknamed ‘The Alchemist’); his appearance crosses Elvis Costello and the Blade Runner. After a series of gruesome murders, he tries to protect Ching (Chingmy Yau), who may be the devil’s daughter. So believes Judas (Francis Ng) who stalks her. Ching has recurrent nightmares about satanic rituals and undergoes an identity crisis. The bloody climax offers lots of blood and guts and fast-paced action. With interspersed comedy, the movie ’s campy and creepy at the same time.

Yen not only delivered a cool performance, he also directed the action sequences (and with a small budget to boot). The darkness of the movie (like Seven), with its many shadow and light effects, foreshadows Yen’s own style in Ballistic Kiss. The gunplay is sharp and jumpy, and Yen gets in blows and kicks too.
An opening action sequence in a diner, in which Yen opposes a robbery gang, is complex and erratic as bodies bounce, kicks fly, and bullets hail. When one of the killers takes a little girl hostage, the camera tracks along the narrow alleyway as Yen follows. A constant downpour amidst darkness and faint artificial lighting create atmosphere. Numerous confrontations with Satan’s emissaries arise, and these scenes are equally satisfying in delivering the action but raising suspense.

The action rises to the apocalyptic occasion with Yen juggling many balls to achieve the desired effect. There’s the crazed knife-bearing Judas slicing officers’ necks in slow motion down a police station corridor, with Yen’s signature kicks and punches against him; there’s also Yen effectively using a garbage can lid as a weapon against the satanic gang, the blows with the lid echoed on the soundtrack. To take on the supernatural, Yen employs swooping camerawork, multiple jump cuts and a nervous energy to contribute to the jittery quality of the action and the storyline. The grunge look of the scenes, from visqueen curtains to symbolic paintings and burning candles, complete the atmosphere. In the film’s climax, a chainsaw-bearing Judas exhibits superhuman strength, holy water and a cross defeat the zombies, and Yen uses his kicking ability to nail Judas to an upside-down cross, set him on fire, and toss him out a window. Nervous laughter is assured.

Director: Ah Lun
Producer: Wong Jing and Yang Teng-kuei
Cast: Donnie Yen, Chingmy Yau Suk-ching, Yuen King-dan, Francis Ng Chun-yu, Darren Wong Chi-wah, Chang Lu, Ivy Leung Si-man, Spencer Lam Seung-yi

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