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Walking on the Wild Side (2006)

Lai xiao zi (original title)
A drama centered on a youth gang in a coal mining area of China's Shanxi province.



1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Paijiang Bai ...
Qiang Guo ...
Liu Liu
Jing Hou ...
Jie Lu ...
Zhaoting Tian ...
Xingxing Zhang ...


A drama centered on a youth gang in a coal mining area of China's Shanxi province.

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Release Date:

January 2006 (Netherlands)  »

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Walking on the Wild Side  »

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Youth delinquency in provincial China
15 January 2007 | by (The Dutch Mountains) – See all my reviews

WALKING ON THE WILD SIDE (Han Jie - China/France 2006).

Director Han Jie sets the story in his native province of Shanxi in Northwest-China, where coal mines sprang up all over the place during the nineties. The main character is also called Han Jie (the director's alter ego, he based the film largely on his own experiences) and grows up in this heavily polluted area, where most of the young men engage in petty crimes, like gambling and stealing. The young Han soon becomes a victim of the youth gang of Xiaosi, basically a bunch of feeble minded idiots who spend most of their day harassing school boys for their money, when they're not drunk or raping girls. When Han's cousin Xiping teaches Xiaosi and his "Gang of the Four Stars" a lesson, the gang members vow revenge, forcing him and Han to flee town.

I picked this one out because I rarely get a chance to see Chinese films and it seemed an interesting slice of life of modern China. This very low-budget debut from Han Jie (1977) actually got a DVD-release in the Netherlands, because it won the Tiger Award at IFF Rotterdam 2006. Last year, I've only seen a few movies at the festival, but if this won the Tiger Award, I get the feeling I didn't miss out on anything spectacular last year, which is not to say this is a bad film in any way. It was interesting to watch, but I don't see an undiscovered cinematic talent here, even when considering it was shot on a shoestring.

A sympathetic attempt and quite interesting to watch the daily routines in provincial China. Storywise director Han Jie really got something going here, but the film is obviously hampered by budgetary restraints and the amateurish acting. Most of the film is shot with a hand-held digital camera and when another fight or pursuit ensues, the cameraman simply runs after the action with a lot of shaky camera moves as a result. It does give the film a very raw realistic feel to it, but Han Jie never really succeeds in drawing any involving or sympathetic characters. It's mostly the interesting local scenery and the realistic portrayal of life in modern China, of which I know very little, that made this film slightly rewarding.

Camera Obscura --- 6/10

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