WILD GOOSE LAKE, THE (NAN FANG CHE ZHAN DE JU HUI)
(director/writer: Diao Yinan; cinematographer: Dong Jinsong; editors: Kong Jinlei, Matthieu Laclau; music: B6; cast: Hu Ge (Zhou Zenong), Gwei Lun Mei (Liu Aiai), Liao Fan (Captain Liu), Wan Qian (Yang Shujun), Qi Dao (Hua Hua), Huang Jue (Ge Yan), Zhang Yicong (Dongbei Xiao), Chen Yongzhong (Client); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Li Li, Shen Yang; Film Movement; 2019-China/France-in Chinese with English subtitles)
“It’s an astounding film for its beauty alone.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title refers to the name of a remote fictional town. Chinese filmmaker Diao Yinan (“Black Coal, Thin Ice”) directs another stylish film noir police story in his follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut film in 2014. The subtropical setting of constant rain, gives cinematographer Dong Jinsong a chance to showcase some delicious visuals.
Rival motorbike gangs meet in the basement of a hotel to divvy up the territories they will control. A scuffle breaks out over who gets one lucrative area (to get the prize a competition is organized to see who can steal the most bikes in a single night ). It results in a weak truce made between the Crazy Cat Brothers and Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge). But unbeknownst to Zhou’s gang, the rising Crazy Cat Brothers made on the same night a deal behind their rival’s back with another gang to take over Zhou’s territory. Zhou’s gang gets attacked, and Zhou becomes a subject of a manhunt by the cops and a rival gang after he accidentally kills a cop while on the run.
Cops in civilian clothes are organized by the Police Chief (Fan Liao) to be in the area of Wild Goose Lake to catch the elusive wanted outlaw Zhou, who has a large price on his head. He’s aided in his flight by the lakeside prostitute Aiai (Kwei Lun-Mei), sent to him by his gang leader (Qi Dao) with a message from his ex-wife. Zhou thereby schemes to let his estranged wife, Shujun (Regina Wan), turn him in so she can collect the reward money. But things get too messy for simple solutions.
The film’s best moments are the chase scenes conducted by the police in the squalid homes of the poor suburban population, showing China is still a police state in need of further reform despite its economic advances. It features cartoonish violence (a decapitation on a motorbike) and shows the beginnings of a mushrooming middle-class movement in China.
It’s an astounding film for its beauty alone. It’s well-acted, and is made with great craftsmanship and an eye for detail. What it lacks is the ability to clue us in on what this clash between the bikers and police really means in modern-day China and what are the private thoughts of the bikers about all the changes in their country.
It won the Golden Bear in Berlin.
REVIEWED ON 1/6/2020 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/