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
Two men befriend itinerant workers in order get them work in the mines posing as a relative... then they kill them and, as family, claim compensation.
After a successful score, the pair find a fresh-faced youth just come from the country and take him under their wing planning to start over again - but their new protégé is a genuine innocent, and their relationship shifts around him until it becomes clear that their plan won't run so smoothly this time around...
I've seen this described both as an art-house character drama and as a kind of noir thriller, and while neither description is wrong both ideas of the movie lack something. It's neither - it's just an excellent film.
If it's a character drama, it scores: all three central characters are brilliantly played and have the idiosyncratic, sometimes inconsistent feel of real people. You laugh with them and feel for them, even when sometimes you shouldn't.
If it's a noir it also scores: bleak, honed to a sharp point and without an ounce of fat on, it's a mesmeric film in which the viewer is compelled to keep watching... in spite of the inescapable feeling that it's not going to end happily.
On the other hand, it's visually a world apart from the majority of Chinese art movies. With no music to relieve the realism, it eschews sumptuous visuals in favour of a raw, documentary style which pays off from the first scene, impressing on the viewer the mundane nature of its characters and how chilling simple their plan is.
Unlike most noir flicks, it's not overtly a thriller. Events unfold at their own pace, without the careful buildup and the climactic peak of the traditional thriller, and the murder and crime are presented as a part of these men's lives rather than the central subject of the film.
The central subject of the film is people, and that's where this film's unique impact lies. Not a film noir and not an art film, this is just a fine film which also happens to be a work of art.
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