"Once Upon a Time in China"
Written and directed by Yi'nan Diao (Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)).
Cinematography by Jingsong Dong, and Music by B6.
Starring Ge Hu as Zenong Zhou, Gwei Lun-Mei as Aiai Liu, Fan Liao as Captain Liu, Regina Wan as Shujun Yang Dao Qi as Hua Hua, Jue Huang as Yan Ge, and Yicong Zhang as Xiao Dongbei.
Yi'nan Diao is a real master of the noir visual style aesthetic. His films are proof that Noir belongs to the entire world, and there truly can be 8 billion stories on the Naked Planet.
The tale is about rival motorcycle theft gangs in China. And, if you go just by that blurb, and have no interest in motorcycles at all you may not be enough intrigued to give it a looksee. Overcome this, and the fact that it is in Chinese and you will be pleasantly rewarded.
|Ge Hu as Zenong Zhou|
|Gwei Lun-Mei as Aiai Liu|
|Yang Dao Qi as Hua Hua|
|Fan Liao as Captain Liu|
|Regina Wan as Shujun|
Wuhan. China. Rainy night. Train station. Zhou a man on the run. He's waiting for his wife Shujun. Instead Liu Aiai a "Bathing Beauty" arrives. A euphemism for beach side hooker who ply's her trade occasionally just right out in the water. Zhou asks her where is Shujuh? Liu tells him she could not come. She tells him that Shujuh asked her to come in her place.
At this point our story goes into flashback mode as Zhou tells Lui what exactly went down.
A cheap hot sheet hotel. A meeting of the underworld gangs. Zhou is one of the territory bosses of a small gang of motor bike and scooter jackers. The meeting has a sort of gangland MC and a workshop presentation on the latest security measures on the new models and how to look for and to overcome them.
|The gangland meeting|
|The parceling out of lucrative territories|
At the end of the show a dispute arises between Red Hair one of Zhou's gang members and The Cat Brothers gang over the territory they are assigned. Cat's Eye and Cat's Ear want Xingye Ave. Xingye and Liberation Aves belong to Zhou on a negotiated seniority basis. The Cats start making more trouble and Red hair pulls out a gun and shoots Cat's Ear in the leg. The meeting erupts into violence.
|The Cat Brothers|
|Red Hair shoots|
|The fork lift|
|The decapitated Red Hair|
|Zhou in the ditch|
As Zhou is on his getaway run, he spies a car up ahead parked along side the road. The bright headlights are shinning in his face blinding him. Zhou expects it's another ambush. As he speeds towards the lights he pulls out his gun. Zhou shoots. He hits one of the two men standing by the vehicle. However, Zhou mistakenly has just gunned down a policeman rather than a member of the Cat's gang. All hell now breaks loose.
|The police strategize|
|Back in the present|
Captain Liu also puts Shujin, Zhou's wife, under surveillance. Meanwhile Zhou contacts Huahua, a pimp he knows, and asks him to get to his wife and have her meet him at the Wild Goose Lake station where she can to turn him in for the reward money. That way at least someone in his family will win.
When Aiai Liu arrives instead of Shujin she relates to him what happened in a second flashback that again will bring us back to the rainy station in the present.
Liu Aiai's Flashback
Liu tells Zhou that Huahua sent her one of his new "Bathing Beauties" out to find Shujin because she is the new girl and the police don't know her.
|The beach at Wild Goose Lake|
|Aiai Liu in her Bathing Beauty costume|
|At the flea market|
|The meeting with Huahua|
Huahua then decides to send Liu Aiai in Shujin's place and to tell Zhou what happened. Liu meets Zhou on one of the platforms and we are back in the present. Of course with a 300,000 bounty on Zhou's head Huahua is now, along with the rival Cat Brothers very interested in collecting the reward for themselves.
It, of course all goes Noirsville.
|Aiai Liu Bathing Beauty|
Anybody who gets off on the visual aspect of films shot in the Film Noir Style is gonna love Wild Goose Lake. You get inundated with Chinese neon. Bare light bulbs abound. They illuminate inky black back alleys, hallways, and outdoor food kiosks. Rain. Headlights stabbing the darkness. Taillights receding in fog. Wild POV motor bikes rides cruising through dimly illuminated mazes of wet city streets. Ghettos. Flea markets. Beaneries. Dark passageways. Courtyards. Unexpected surrealistic tableaus. Reflections. Shadows. Silhouettes. An overwhelming and continually flowing cacophony of Noir.
All the actors are spot on. For some one who doesn't speak whatever the dialect of Chinese the film uses it doesn't matter the subtitles are easy to read. I can never understand why anybody would gripe about them. With our ability to pause, read the sub, they play it's akin to reading a high tech graphic novel. If you read books, graphic novels, and comics, you can do this.
The visuals just draw you image by image into the Noirsville we all know. Just watch, a great Neo Noir. - 9/10. Screen grabs are from a IMDb streamer.