ARTICLE 20 (第二十条) (2024)

Genre: Drama
Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Lei Jiayin, Ma Li, Zhang Yi, Zhao Liying, Liu Yaowen, Gao Ye
Runtime: 2 hrs 21 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence & Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 4 April 2024

Synopsis: In a year where every challenge seems insurmountable, Han Ming’s story unfolds. Han Ming (Lei Jiayin) is a seconded prosecutor whose life is a whirlwind of complications following his transfer to the municipal prosecutor’s office. His son, Han Yuchen (Liu Yaowen), ignites a firestorm by clashing with dean’s (Zhang Yi) son and adamantly refuses to apologise. His wife, Li Maojuan (Ma Li), fiercely intervenes, further escalating the situation. At work, Han Ming navigates a minefield of professional challenges, especially his strained partnership with Lv Ling Ling (Gao Ye) which results in deadlock in their cases. Amidst these chaos, the desperate plight of Hao Xiuping (Zhao Liying) in a critical case confronts Han Ming with the harsh realities of legal and emotional conflict. With his career and family hanging in the balance, Han Ming decides to gamble everything on his quest for justice and fairness in his own way…

Movie Review:

Chinese director Zhang Yimou is known for making films which boast breathtaking cinematography and rich colours. From his early works like Red Sorghum (1988) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991) to more recent titles like Shadow (2018) and One Second (2020), the accomplished filmmaker’s projects have been nothing short of stunning. Even this reviewer’s least favourite Zhang Yimou movie The Great Wall (2016) was a visual treat, only to be unfortunately marred by its white saviour narrative.

Zhang’s latest movie, which was released during the Lunar New Year period in China, may be the least visually arresting production of his career. Yet, it manages to captivate our hearts and succeeds in making us empathise with almost every character in this 141 minute movie that features a few storylines.

The protagonist is Han Ming (Lei Jianyin), a disillusioned prosecutor who is facing increasing pressure at home and at work. His son had injured the school bully, and the kid’s father (who happens to be the school dean) is demanding for an apology after making a police report. Han Ming’s wife (Ma Ling) does not agree, and instead questions the system which seems to be siding the oppressor.

Elsewhere, there is an ongoing case where a man is accused of murdering a local loan shark who raped his deaf mute wife. The dead man’s father and other unruly village gangsters are not pleased and try to take things into their own hands. Han Ming is put in charge of the case after his work partner (and gasp, former girlfriend) Ling Ling (Gao Ye) becomes too vocal for the bosses’ comfort. Given the complex circumstances of the case, it is no wonder Han Ming is beginning to feel the strain. Oh, and he has a back problem that won’t go away too, adding to the pain the poor man has endure.

While the plot has all the potential to make the movie a serious drama, trust the filmmakers to incorporate some of the best comedic moments we’ve ever seen. Thanks to Lei and Ma’s perfect on screen chemistry, there is never a boring moment when they bicker through all of life’s big and small matters. Watching their fiery yet somewhat heartwarming exchange reminds you what family is all about. We also chuckled at the meta moment where Han Ming sees a scene from Zhang’s Full River Red (2023) on a TV screen, where Lei’s Qin Hui was giving a speech.

This legal drama is based on various real life incidents, where justifiable self defense have landed people in trouble. The movie’s title refers to Article 20 of Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China which permits an individual to take action to prevent harm to themselves or others without facing punishment. The film is exploring a righteous theme, and Zhang knows exactly how to tug at our heartstrings through his storytelling. This is exemplified through another storyline which sees a bus driver beating up two bullies for harassing a female passenger. There is also the grand and rousing speech Han Ming delivers during the film’s finale, which cynics may find too idealistic.

Another highlight of this highly recommended movie is its star studded cast. Besides Lei and Ma, there are other faces you may have seen from other Chinese productions. Zhang Yi (Home Coming) shows up as the no nonsense dean, Fan Wei (My People, My Homeland) plays the inconsolable father of the murdered thug, Zhao Liying (The Monkey King 3) delivers a heartbreaking performance as the deaf mute woman who is seeking justice for her husband, while Wang Xiao (Endless Journey) portrays another prosecutor with a thankless job of maintaining order. The stellar cast will keep you engaged for more than two hours as you become emotionally involved in the unfolding human drama.

Movie Rating:

(Even without his signature stunning cinematography, Zhang Yimou's latest film is a rousing and heartfelt human drama that boasts an impressive stellar cast) 

Review by John Li

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