3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is a film that mostly stays true to its title. It’s in 3D and there’s plenty of sex and extreme ecstasy. As for the zen part, that word probably could have been replaced with torture. In this oddball erotic kung-fu comedy, director Christopher Sun flips the period costume drama on its head, turning it into a sexcapades fantasy of forbidden ancient lore. The result is if you merged a Shaw Brothers movie with a soft-core pornography along with a dash of Stephen Chow’s cartoonish over the top guffaws. The film grossed more money on its first day of release in Hong Kong than Titanic or 3D behemoth Avatar. Billed as the first ever 3-D erotic film, obviously the movie has a unique attraction for a certain type of audience. However for others, the misogynistic antics of both protagonist and antagonist along with the surprising amount of dark and disturbing sexual brutality suffered by both sexes will surely turn off some audiences.

The story which is loosely based on an ancient Chinese text The Carnal Prayer Mat, akin to the book of Kama Sutra, centers on a young scholar of the Ming Dynasty, Wei Yangsheng (Hiro Hayama) as he is about to wed the gorgeous daughter Tie Yuxiang (Leni Lan) of a wealthy lord. The problem facing Wei is that his sexual prowess is minuscule to say the least and no matter what he does he can’t seem to satisfy his wife. With no one else to turn to, Wei decides to seek help from the Prince of Ning (Tony Ho) a sadist master of ecstasy who resides in a palace of pleasure. The price to pay for learning the secrets of becoming a master lover is high, as Ning takes pleasure in seeing Wei suffer. Throw in the transgendered Elder of Ultimate Bliss (Vonnie Lui) along with various courtesans with special sexual skills, mostly played by Japanese AV idols, and the tapestry for this bizarre film becomes clear.

The strengths of a movie like this comes from reveling in the sheer amount of over-the-top action and blatantly hokey special effects, which are designed to elicit laughs. The first half of the film benefits from this kind of playful humor with some highlights being the definitive montage of premature ejaculation to the absurd reveal of Prince Ning’s well endowed monstrosity compared to Wei’s toothpick prick. However the film takes a turn into much darker territory at the halfway mark, as Wei becomes prisoner to Ning’s torturous delights and scenes of genitalia mutilation become a common occurrence. When director Sun tries to take a turn for more serious drama, we lose the fun slapstick nature that made it so appealing in the first place.

While 3D Sex and Zen is actually a continuation of a series from the same brand, this newer incarnation strives to be substantially darker than the rest. The message at the core is that true love doesn’t require people to have sex, it is infinite and should be treasured above physical pleasure. Sure, this is a compelling message but the filmmakers are obviously putting more emphasis on the voyeuristic quality of watching beautiful women writhe in both pleasure and pain. Again, this uneven balance of Ying and Yang (no pun intended) does the film no favors as it barrels over the 2 hour mark and loses steam from a well-paced first half. Still, 3D Sex and Zen is truly unlike any film you will see this year, but only see it if you are willing to succumb to all sorts of bizarre sexual brazenness hurtling towards you in the third dimension.

3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is now in limited release.

Grade: B-

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