Chow Yun-Fat meets a beguiling witch
Brian Camp | Bronx, NY | 05/29/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"WITCH FROM NEPAL (1986) starts out as a charming, humorous tale of Joe, a Hong Kong artist who suddenly finds himself saddled with the title character, Sheila, an attractive Nepalese princess with supernatural powers who dubs him her master (think "Bewitched" crossed with "I Dream of Jeannie"). A little over an hour into it, the film takes on horror elements as Joe, his Hong Kong girlfriend Ida, and four of her little ballet students are all trapped in a car in a cemetery overrun by rotting corpses newly brought to life. The final section has Joe, armed with a mystical dagger, battling a wild Nepalese warrior in a deserted downtown Hong Kong business district in a war of sorcery that has them flying, blasting and hurling each other through elevator shafts, office windows, and massive electrical generators. The overall inconsistency is less troubling than the fact that none of the ideas introduced is ever fully explored. Joe's development of telekinetic powers, for instance, is only glimpsed in one scene. Although the special effects are beautifully done, there's a lack of imagination in the way they're used. The final battle spends way too much time in an elevator that speeds up and down several times. The best use of skyscrapers and rooftops in a fantastic action climax in a Hong Kong film is still to be found in the Tsui Hark-produced sci-fi thriller WICKED CITY (1992). Chow Yun-Fat (Joe) is a thoroughly appealing actor and is very good in his scenes with the two actresses (Emily Chu and Yammie Nam Kit-Ying). But the attempt to turn him into a supernatural action hero at the end falls flat. Chow is at his action-packed best in Hong Kong films when he gets to wear a trenchcoat and wield a .45 automatic in each hand (A BETTER TOMORROW, THE KILLER, HARD-BOILED, etc.). Considering that this film's director, Ching Siu Tung, was also responsible for the wildly imaginative CHINESE GHOST STORY trilogy and the last two films in the SWORDSMAN trilogy (SWORDSMAN II and THE EAST IS RED), all produced by Tsui Hark, WITCH FROM NEPAL ranks as a major disappointment."