Two Chinese coal miners have hit upon the perfect scam: murder one of their fellow mine workers, make the death look like an accident, and extort money from the boss to keep the incident ...
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Two Chinese coal miners have hit upon the perfect scam: murder one of their fellow mine workers, make the death look like an accident, and extort money from the boss to keep the incident hushed up. For their latest "mark," they choose a naive teenager from a small village, and as they prepare to carry out their newest plan, things start to get complicated... Written by
Song and Tang are two conmen who make their money through murder and deception. They live among the unemployed drifters of China, latch onto lonely young men, convince them to pretend to be one of their relatives and then the three get a job together in a mine. After a few days, Song and Tang kill their companion and make it look like a cave in - extorting the bosses for compensation in return for silence. They have been doing this for a while to good profit and plan to continue when they pick up the sixteen year old Yuan, creating a moral crisis for Song.
I was not sure what this film was about when I sat to watch it but the fact that it had been made as an underground film (literally) without the permission of the Government and that was enough reason for me to give it a bit of my time. As one would expect from such a film, the plot is a mix of narrative and comment. The comment is delivered in the form of us seeing the working conditions and the poverty `enjoyed' by the citizens who are outside of what we would consider the `proper' economic system. In this regard the film is interesting if not totally gripping. The narrative is just as gripping but it is less satisfying as it seems to be secondary to the other aspects of the film. The characters do just enough to carry the story along, in fact they win over the audience well enough for us to care about all the main players - essential in a film that is driven more by them than by action.
To that end, the cast (a mix of professionals and non-professionals) deliver the goods pretty well. Yuan's innocence and dedication to the characters is key to the film and Wang carries this off well. The elder Wang is also good but has a simpler character to deliver - however it is to his credit that his `bad' guy never lost my interest. Li is the best thing in the film even if he goes through an fairly recognisable crisis of confidence. Yang Li's documentary background shows through with the realistic direction and the great use of locations - all the more impressive as many of them must have been difficult to shoot in.
However, the lack of events means that the narrative is a little less than satisfying when it comes to the end. We more or less know where it is going and the film uses the ending as much as a closure to the narrative as it is a further comment of the people's place within the system. Despite this it is still worth seeing even if it may not match the hype that the awards and reviews on this page would have you believe. Overall a good film that is worthy with good direction and acting even if the commentary of society and narrative don't sit as well together as one would hope.
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