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Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)
"Bai ri yan huo" (original title)

 -  Crime | Drama | Mystery  -  21 March 2014 (China)
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 971 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 41 critic

An ex cop and his ex partner decide to follow up on investigation of a series of murders that ended their careers and shamed them, when identical murders begin again.

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Cast

Cast overview:
Fan Liao ...
Zhang Zili
Lun Mei Gwei ...
Wu Zhizhen
Xuebing Wang ...
Liang Zhijun
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An ex cop and his ex partner decide to follow up on investigation of a series of murders that ended their careers and shamed them, when identical murders begin again.

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21 March 2014 (China)  »

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Black Coal  »

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User Reviews

 
Excellent Film, Grim and Dark
8 April 2014 | by (China) – See all my reviews

It seems that, every few years, there are one or two Chinese films that, despite being slow-paced, dark, and lacking A-list stars, somehow manage to attract a large domestic audience without being controversial enough to risk complete censorship. In 2014, the only example I have seen so far is this, Black Coal, Thin Ice. The reason for its domestic success is presumably because of its awards at the Berlin Film Festival.

As the story unfolds, despite being based around a series of murders, the film has a pace more similar to an art-house film than a crime- thriller. A couple of scenes were impressively disturbing, made even more so by the slow paced, subtle atmosphere surrounding them.

The setting of a polluted, dark, seedy city in a long Heilongjiang winter seems perfect for the noir tone of the film. A subtle musical score, with some dissonant strings combined with (terrible) Chinese pop songs (intra-diegetic) creates a fantastic atmosphere. The closest thing to it I have seen is Suzhou River, which, now I come to think of it, has a lot of similar motifs (I haven't seen Diao Yinan's previous films).

The acting performances were all impressive, the female lead (played by Taiwanese Gwei/Gui Lun-Mei) seemed suitably out of place in the Far Northeast of Mainland China. Liao Fan's male lead, and Wang Xuebing's character, were both impressive.

Despite a bit of dark humour that made me giggle, Black Coal, Thin Ice is a relentlessly grim and slightly disturbing film. I was impressed that it wasn't (more) censored in China, as it paints a pretty depressing picture. Despite being enthralled by the film, I won't be booking a flight to Heilongjiang any time soon.


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