In this realistic downbeat drama, two con artists (Qiang Li & Wang Shuangbo) make a living by befriending young men who need work & are far from home & friends & thus susceptible to the offer of work & friendship. The con men promise fast money working for mining bosses in distant rural coal towns, & convince their young ward of the season to pretend to be a relative under assumed names so that they can all get work together. Their latest victim-in-the-making (Wang Baoqiang) is unusually sweet & endearing & unluckily looks to the two men for fatherly protection.
They then murder the innocent sap, make it look like a mining accident, & extort pay-offs from crooked work bosses for keeping their mouth shut about how dangerous the work is. Money that should've gone to family survivors goes into the con men's pockets, who then set out to befriend another sap & do the whole scam again in yet another mining village.
Director Yang Li, previously a documentarian, has used a mix of professional & non-professional actors & given this film an edge of callous realism. He makes no effort to glamorize anything in the usual movie style. The monstrous con men are our point of view characters; with such protagonists, we get a film without heros, & goodness exists merely to be destroyed.
Even the landscapes are dirty & ugly, which is in fact true of far too much of China's long deforested stark dusty unwholesome landscapes. Yan Li shows us only ugly people in an ugly country.
Not a comforting film, this is a grim indictment of China today, with corrupt officials, thuggish work bosses, rampant prostitution & unemploymentintense poverty, misery & displacement, broken families, & serial killers.
The only thing hopeful about the film is that the government didn't imprison everyone for making it & permitted it to be seen., as it shows exclusively a slice of Chinese daily life that is relentlessly a hellhole.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl