HANSON AND THE BEAST (2017) review

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Xiao Yang’s Hanson and the Beast follows Yuan Shuai, aka Hanson (William Feng), a failed actor who is now neck deep in debt after taking a hefty loan to direct his own film and getting scammed. Now he’s trying to find himself a rich wife through a matchmaking service, while literally shoveling at a zoo that his now clinically insane father used to own. During a matchmaking date, he meets Bai Xianchu (Liu Yifei), who immediately reveals to him that she’s a fox demon, part of a tribe of animal demons that assume human form to dwell in our world. Hanson saved her life as a kid, when she was a little fox trapped in his father’s zoo and bullied by other kids. Now, she has found him again by chance and is in love with him, despite the warnings of her childhood friend – and cat demon – Hong Sicong (Guo Jingfei). For such a love is strictly forbidden by the commissioner of their tribe, Yun Zhonghe (Li Guangjie), who offers Hanson mountains of cash, provided that he inject her with poison and deliver her to him.

A modern-day riff on the classic trans-species love stories of Chinese fairy tales, such as Painted Skin (here constantly referred to in a meta way, as the filming of a Painted Skin 8 factors in the story) or Madame White Snake (recently adapted again for the big screen in Ching Siu Tung’s The Sorcerer and the White Snake), but with a dash of Men in Black thrown in (secret operatives making sure humans remain unaware of the otherworldly dwellers among them), Hanson and the Beast is an often unsightly film, lit in gaudy pastels and neons, and full of unconvincing make up (we mean the creature make up, not Guo Jingfei’s cringe-worthy eyeliner) and jerky, weightless CGI. Its forced, artificial love story – she enters the picture already fully lovestruck, and he falls for her after she stalks him, mauls him while in her fox shape, and comes close to prostitution to help him pay his debt – is difficult to root for, though the relentlessly, unabashedly silly humour can be fairly amusing. In the end, the film is kept afloat – barely – by Liu Yifei, who moves with unexpected agility between weirdness, cuteness, bestiality and tragedy. She is well-matched by William Feng, who’s sympathetic and makes a fool of himself with amusing abandon, and Li Guangjie, quite charismatic as the prancing bad guy.

Long Story Short: A forced, visually gaudy modern fairy tale, barely kept afloat by a talented trio of leads. **

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12 Comments

  1. Liz Ferguson

     /  February 15, 2018

    There are many things to criticize in that film, yet somehow I liked it anyway! Meant to write my own review, but sill have not done it. The film is no longer being shown in my city. I fully agree with your last words “the relentlessly, unabashedly silly humour can be fairly amusing. In the end, the film is kept afloat – barely – by Liu Yifei, who moves with unexpected agility between weirdness, cuteness, bestiality and tragedy. She is well-matched by William Feng, who’s sympathetic and makes a fool of himself with amusing abandon, and Li Guangjie, quite charismatic as the prancing bad guy.”

    Reply
    • Looking forward to reading your review!

      Reply
      • Liz Ferguson

         /  February 15, 2018

        Thank you! Encouragement is always appreciated. I saw the Chinese film Till the End of the World last night. Some of the scenery in Antarctica was impressive. Sadly, I didn’t feel any chemistry between stars Mark Chao and Yang Zishan. There was a sub plot with an animated penguin that was really stupid. (Not in a good way!)

        Reply
        • Oh, indeed I thought that “cute penguin” subplot was pointless and a weird tonal shift, that far into the film…

          Reply
          • Liz Ferguson

             /  February 15, 2018

            Oh, you saw that film, too! Cool. When he fell into the crevasse and was trying to get out, most of the time I had no idea where he was, or what direction he was going in, or how he eventually got out. It seems that anything that possibly COULD happen to a person did happen to him. Since you saw the film, can you tell me…was her jade pendant Buddha or Kwanyin? I could not see it well enough to figure that out.

            Reply
            • I could not see it well enough either, but I assumed it was Kwanyin, as there was also numerous shots of a statue of the Virgin Mary, and the director may have been trying to establish a parallel between these two Goddesses of Mercy.

              Reply
              • Liz Ferguson

                 /  February 15, 2018

                Thanks! Certainly, years ago, when I first started watching Chinese films (from China, not HK) there weren’t any religious references. I imagine they would have been forbidden.

                Reply
  2. Dash Rendar

     /  March 3, 2018

    Saw this one as well and was quite surprised by its visual aesthetics and overall quirkyness. I liked it, even though there are still a lot of flaws. But I would like to see more like this coming out of China, since it’s a refreshing different kind of “rom-com”.

    Reply
    • Granted, it’s not your average Chinese rom-com. But I just feel with a stronger director and a dash of subtlety it could have been something truly special.

      Reply
  3. Quite enjoyed this one, knowing your rating beforehand. That might have just adjusted my expectations.
    And I find the CGI quite compelling for a rumoured 18million US Dollar budget. That’s ridiculously low for the amount of CGI.

    Reply
    • Yes, I have to admit that the CGI is still better than in the vastly more expensive Monkey King 3…

      Reply

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