Up until The Matrix, they were cinema’s most troublesome red pills. The historically
based “Case of the Red Pills” inspired Liang Yusheng’s wuxia novel, Ronny Yu’s
memorable screen treatment, The Bride
with White Hair, as well as a sequel and several television serials.
However, it is Fan Bingbing’s snowy mane that most fans will most remember
about the latest adaptation, Jacob Cheung’s White Haired Witch (trailer
which releases today on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA.
Due to his talent and natural lack of ambition,
Zhuo Yihang has been anointed the successor to the leader of the Wudang Sect.
His first official duty will be to pay tribute to the emperor with an offering
of the order’s red pills. Obviously, such a gift presents an ambitious eunuch
like Wei Zhongxian the perfect opportunity to dispatch the emperor and blame an
innocent fall guy, which he will not squander. Taking the long way home to visit
his grandfather, a military governor on the frontier, Zhuo initially has no
idea he has been falsely accused. Nor is he aware his grandfather was murdered
by the treasonous general Jin Duyi, who similarly framed the demon-outlaw known
as “Jade Rakshasha.” However, he sure thinks she is something when he
encounters her during his journey.
Soon Zhuo is forced to take refuge in Jade
Rakshasha’s Luna Fortress. Ming-era Tracey & Hepburn sparks continue to fly
between them, while Zhuo proves his worth to community. Of course, they
inevitably fall in love, but they will be separated when Zhuo willingly
surrenders to the feared imperial guard, rather than risk the lives of the displaced
peasantry sheltered in Luna. He will eventually regain his freedom by
skillfully playing a double game with Eunuch Wei, even going so far as to marry
his innocent daughter, Ke Pingting (she came before his you know what), but the
apparent betrayal turns Jade Rakshasha’s hair white. It also makes her mad,
which is never a good idea.
Yes, Fan Bingbing looks great with white hair.
She also looks fab and establishes decent action cred in her fight scenes. Just
for the record, Fan probably kicks more butt in Witch than the entire cast of the prospective “Expendabelles” film. You
could make an equivalent film any day of the week in Hong Kong or Taiwan, but
you simply won’t find an ensemble with the chops in Hollywood.
Be that as it may, Fan’s chemistry with
Huang Xiaoming’s Zhuo is just okay. Frankly, he is a little stiff at times, but
since he was working for a considerable time with a broken leg, he earns points
for being a gamer. In limited screen time, Tanya Tong makes a strong impression
humanizing the visiting team as Wei’s daughter Ke. Vincent Zhao chews plenty of
scenery as the dastardly Jin, but he also gets to show a more nuanced side of
There are a number of big names in Witch’s ensemble, but along with Fan,
the real stars are Stephen Tung’s fight choreography and the Oscar winning (for
Crouching Tiger) Timmy Yip’s costuming.
Frankly, it is a bit conspicuous that the intricate narrative has been somewhat
abridged, but at least Cheung keeps the energy level up. It really is a lot of
fun, as long as you can handle a tragically sweeping grand finale. Seriously,
would you expect anything else? Recommended for fans of Fan and wuxia, White Haired Witch is now available on
DVD and digital platforms from Well Go USA.
Labels: DVD, Fan Bingbing, Vincent Zhao, Wuxia