Ulysses Au (Prodigal Boxer, Thou Shalt Not Kill ... But Once) puts the women at front as the dominant forces of men and the castrators of men. Matters are amusingly flipped and freaky in this tale from "history" with its share of on the nose message about tolerance between the sexes that doesn't cater fully to the male crowd either. Although the sometimes gory, goofy content involving a lot of sexy, well-costumed women DO attract the male crowd, they will surely along with critics feel pain during certain parts of The Country Of Beauties as well as liking the well-conceived ride as well.
Queen Nadanwa (Elsa Yeung) is exiled from her land and has since built an island kingdom with amazon women by her side. With a hatred for men, any babies born on the island of that sex are relegated to the perils of the sea and throughout the years, a small society of castaway men struggling for survival (Don Wong's Lu is part of this camp) have formed. The threat of pirates is also imminent and the defense the Queen and her women have built isn't sufficient to ward off threats. Perhaps men is needed after all...
Also known as Island Warriors, Ulysses Au overall gets points across in a flimsy way and the movie stumbles several times during the way by being light. But the fairly outlandish idea, technical execution and narrative actually means a pretty delightful time. Tone is fun, despite Elsa Yeung's man hating Queen being as cold as she is and the castrations at the hand of Teresa Tsui are. I mean the wonderful scope frame showing what looks like a polystyrene statue meant to be hard rock (it also acts as island defense), training and dancing across the island... times are groovy. All overlooked by an incredible looking Elsa Yeung in a variety of outfits that sparks ideas of her as a dominatrix. It does make sense as she's the coldest, controlling character of the film as any captured men receives said castration, babies are essentially murdered and any HUMAN desire (not necessarily FEMALE desire) such as intimacy is quickly squashed. Men are slaves with chastity belts, sex slaves and used for their engineering skills at best. But the moral of the story is of course that we're all human, have desires and a cold front, a decided path, a decided way of thinking should be squashed in itself in favour of thinking outside the box. That's of course the Queen's biggest fears.
All very well realized on a costume level and especially the intricate indoor sets in the caves were absolutely meant for the scope frame and nothing else. Largely it's an entertaining very slight ride ruined by comedic tangents involving men looking for a treasure and the mugging even when faced with castration is a criminally disruptive element from director Au.
Then again out there elements such as a 100 year spiritual kung-fu practitioner looking eternally young and a healing sequence where the clothes fly off during an intense healing-session are such fun adult elements plus one of the castrated men literally thinking he's a woman gets those eyebrows raised and you come back to the tone often being very breezy. Combined with technical excellence where someone did spend time on realizing this idea, it's that very idea that is clinched fairly well during the movie and the lingering effect says something about the correct stance towards the material director Au does take.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson