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
A gutsy, gritty film from China: a natural thriller without cutting off threads of humanity
A bold feature from writer-director Li Yang (also producer, film editor and focus puller) who is not afraid to expose the every man for himself corruption and swindling situations of China's mining workers conditions. Seems like a sad story yet its plot progression is as taut a thriller and chilling as its straightforward dauntless depiction of the ugly, the callous and the innocent. Amorality and moral strength is at play here - call it political concerns. There is no shyness to the telling of the story like it is. There is no fear that this film may not be for everyone (NFE) and that doses of entertainment/merriment may not be enough for Hollywood standard. This is a very good film in spite of all the odds. Script was written with dramatic turns akin to basics of human nature, be it circumstantial greed, abandoned pleasure, filial attachment, or unabashed dreams.
Lots of respect for all involved in the production of this film - not an easy one at that. Going deep down into the mines and photographing in utter pitch darkness is one tough challenge. Applause to the actors, the crew, all the assistance in the realization of this no ordinary film effort, of a seemingly ordinary life of coal mine workers, family members, and the management. This film has such strength and poignancy that it felt like the result of a veteran filmmaker rather than a debut effort.
Past films with coal mine workers theme: John Sayles' "Matewan" (1987) with Chris Cooper and co.; Richard Harris in Martin Ritt's "The Molly Maguires" (1970); a more modern day story with Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald and Ewan McGregor in Mark Herman's "Brassed Off" (1996). Li Yang's "Blind Shaft" aka "Mang Jing" is by far an every-man account of how dark the situation can be, or is. The film is in Mandarin with well-translated English subtitles by Jonathan Noble. The fascinating study of human nature is fully embraced in the storytelling and the convincing performances of the three central characters: Qiang Li and Shuangbao Wang as the ugly and callous pair of Song and Tang, and Baoqiang Wang as the innocent teenage boy Yuan. It is a worthwhile 92 mins.
Thanks to Kino International for distributing this rare film, jointly produced by China, Germany and Hong Kong. Other distributed foreign gems: w-d Im Kwon-Taek's "Chihwaseon" aka "Painted Fire" (Korean 2002); w-d Jeong Jae-eun's "Take Care of My Cat" (Korean 2001); w-d Michael Haneke's "Code Unknown" (French 2000, with Juliette Binoche); w-d Wong Kar-Wai's "Happy Together" (Cantonese 1997); w-d Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust" (1991).
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