VORTEX (2019) review

p2566515717

In Jacky Gan’s debut feature, Da Peng plays Liu Xiaojun, a washed-up car mechanic and a degenerate gambler, deep in debt and relying on the support of his deceased father’s partner in the police, Wang Yong (Cao Weiyu). To try and get out of a 100,000 RMB debt, a desperate Liu accepts work from shady car dealer Lao Wan (Cao Bingkun); the job is simple: steal unregistered cars and bring them to him, so that he can re-paint and re-sell them. But things go south very soon: as Liu is stealing the first car, he is chased and shot at by two criminals, Xia Tao (Sha Baoliang) and his brother Xia Xi (Oho Ou). And having just managed to escape them, he realizes there’s a little girl, Qi Qi (Wulantuoya Duo) tied up in the trunk of the car. Yet this vortex of misfortune seems like it might lead to riches: it turns out she was kidnapped for ransom by the two criminals, and when answering a call from her mother on a phone that was in the car, Liu realizes he might well be able to collect the 2-million RMB ransom instead of them…

(more…)

COCK AND BULL (2016) review

100142-72126214_1000x1000

After three films that oscillated between the tragic and the bittersweet (The Equation of Love and DeathEinstein and Einstein and The Dead End), writer-director Cao Baoping returns to his first love, rural dark comedy. In Cock and Bull, a mechanic named Song (Liu Ye) has to deal with two exigent issues. First, he is under pressure from a big mining company to move his ancestors’ graves so that a big mining operation may proceed on his land, which he steadfastly refuses to do, out of a deep-rooted sense of filial duty. But equally pressingly, he must clear his name after a fellow villager is murdered and suspicion falls on him, because he had a fight with him weeks before. Song thus sets out to find the real killer, who may be either a local delinquent (Duan Bowen) who somehow is in possession of the victim’s motorcycle, or a shaky nightclub owner (Zhang Yi) hard up for cash who moonlights as a hitman for local mobsters.

(more…)