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  Publicity Stills of "Crazy Stone"
(Courtesy from GVP)

In Chinese with Chinese and English Subtitles
Director: Ning Hao
Starring: Guo Tao, Liu Gang, Huang Bo, Lian Jin, Fan Bing Bing
RunTime: -
Released By: GVP
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 10 August 2006

Synopsis :

When a precious stone was found and showcased in a factory, the gangsters are trying every means to get their hands on it. Bao, the loyal factory worker who volunteered to take over the security of the stone, comes up with tricks against the thieves in protecting the exhibit. Every one of their actions is tied in a net of causes and effects, which ultimately lead them to a surprise ending.

Movie Review:

A trio of inept grifters, an accomplished but unlucky cat burglar and a lustful louse of a photographer unwittingly find themselves tangled together in a messy heist for a precious jade pendant, discovered at the grounds of a floundering factory on the verge of being torn down. The only man standing in their way is a jaded (and constipated) ex-detective, Bao Shihong (Guo Tao) who moonlights as a security guard, dedicated to protect the pendant.

With the comic subtlety of a Stephen Chow effort and the frenzied pace of a psychedelic monkey, Ning Hao’s direction oozes reckless exuberance and is distinguished by a sharp visual intuitiveness and canny knack for accentuating physical comedy in his performers. In his latest film, “Crazy Stone”, Ning Hao brings the focus to mainland China - set in Chongqing, a bustling city with an effervescent and distinctive population. It’s a welcome change of pace from his austere and halcyonian “Mongolian Ping Pong”, which rigorously strayed away from highfalutin’ city living.

A high concept crime comedy, it’s chock-full of the requisite black comedy, violence and accidental mayhem that audiences have come to expect from caper-genre gems such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch” and “Pulp Fiction”. Relying heavily on complexities, coincidences, and confluences, it brings together disparate groups of characters with shared ambitions and builds a disjointed narrative that constantly revolves around a singular catalyst.

In this case, it’s the jade pendant that’s going to be auctioned off to settle the factory owner’s (Chen Zhenghua) debts with a crooked property developer. Of course, the mobster developer needs the land in order to build a high-rise condominium, so he hires a ‘professional’ thief to steal the guarded gemstone. Unfortunately, a crew of local hustlers (Liu Hua, Yue Xiaojun, Huang Bo) robs him when he lands and get wise to his assignment. They then prepare to pick up where he inadvertently left off. A wildcard in the form of the factory owner’s unscrupulous and self-absorbed son (Peng Bo) is introduced, mucking up the plans of all involved.

The itinerant and taut screenplay that switches between its subjects in the parallels of time and space reaches a farcical precision through its slick and witty dialogue that often digresses into bizarre and off-the-wall zingers. The humour is incredibly sharp and matter-of-fact, an esoteric representation of the colloquialisms and commonplace vernacular of mainland Chinese. The thick, impenetrable dialect can be a task but its comedy often amounts to slapstick and cheeky throwaway gags, especially in the case of the bandit trio, an obvious homage to the antics of the Three Stooges. These are definitely not the suave and elegant criminal masterminds of “Oceans Eleven”, they find themselves face down in the mud and grime more often than they manage to slip past unsuspecting guards and cleverly reversing the advantage.

Synthesizing the approaches of experimental edits and innovative camera techniques, the film’s aggressive and capricious style is an amalgamation of derivative and flaunty exhibitions of colour and visual design. It might seem like an exercise in style over substance when it employs the use of technical edits and split screens to convey modal ideas where less can be considered more. Fortunately with its complicated yet effective plot finesse, which remains unyieldingly manic till the end, it is probably the FOCUS: First Cuts (FFC) film series’ best, if not the most memorable entry to date.

Its 28-year-old director must already be primed for his next feature. With “Crazy Stone” being the highest grossing local film in China so far this year, it has certainly left an impression on moviegoers. No doubt due in part to a novel anti-piracy initiative, when its distributors released the film during a period where no foreign films were released in its cinemas. It was quickly followed up with the release of legitimate Region 6 DVDs tailored for local players, to dissuade bootleg copies.

Movie Rating:

(One of the funniest comedies this year, guaranteed to leave you with a gut full of laughs and a face plastered with smiles)

Review by Justin Deimen



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