Thursday 30 April 2020

The Wild Goose Lake [2019]

On the surface, The Wild Goose Tale, Diao Yinan’s follow-up to the excellent police procedural Black Coal, Thin Ice, followed a similar pattern in that both were neo-noirs set against dreary, alienating backdrops; however, it couldn’t have been a more dramatic departure formally. While it did have an intriguing, albeit skeletal, narrative arc and noir tropes a dime a dozen, the film basks and even revels in hyperstylized self-indulgence (mash-up of the self-conscious aesthetics of Wong Kar-wai meets Luc Bresson / John Woo meets Robert Rodriguez and Zack Snyder). It couldn’t have had a more enticing opening gambit either – a terse, mysterious man with a hunted look, waiting for someone in a desolate rain-washed night, is casually approached by an enigmatic woman asking for a light, and then being informed that his wife couldn’t make it to the rendezvous and hence she’s come instead. A couple of elaborate flashbacks, in turn, set up their backstories – Zhou (Hu Ge) is a criminal on the run on account of having a killed a cop post a turf allocation process that goes awry and escalates into gang violence; Liu (Gwei Lun-mei) is a sex worker who was given the job of finding Zhou’s estranged wife for collecting the bounty on his head. The third segment covers the massive manhunt led by a dogged cop (Liao Fan) and their futile flee across the town. The alternately captivating and exasperating film is visually striking with its bleak, neon-lit images of grungy urban spaces, while the languorous pacing and existential tone were interspersed with moments of dazzling action sequences – a brawl in a hotel basement, a motorcycle race, using umbrella as a lethal weapon, etc.

Director: Diao Yinan
Genre: Crime Drama/Neo-Noir
Language: Mandarin
Country: China

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