A World Without Thieves

Dir: Feng Xiaogang
Star: Andy Lau, Rene Liu, Wang Baoqiang, Ge You

Career thieves and lovers Bo and Li (Lau and Liu) board a train with the intention of rolling a naive country bumpkin (Wang) for five years' worth of savings, which he unwisely declared he was carrying to all and sundry at the station - it'll be their final job before retiring. However, they are far from the only ones interested in so doing, notably Uncle Li (Ge) and his team, and Bo's partner is also having second thoughts about her life of crime, switching sides and insisting on protecting their erstwhile target from harm. And the police are also planning to swoop on the train and carry all the criminals off to face justice.

It's a glorious set-up and there are moments when the potential is fully realized. This is usually when director Feng stops trying to be overly pretentious - he seems to have aspirations of being Wong Kar-Wai, but lacks the vision, or Christopher Doyle's cinematography. It's the kind of thing you either do full-on or not at all, and this never quite has the courage to do either. There is, for example, one great scene at a station where Bo and Li simply talk to each other, in front of a static camera, and the result is more effective and memorable than any of the flashy, music-drenched set-pieces. The psychological duels and tension between Bo and Uncle Li are also great, notable a sequence involving two eggs, which shows who really is the god of thievery. Less-blatant attempts at "style" would really not have been a problem here, as the characters and story are strong enough not to need this kind of distraction.

[The DVD was released through Tartan Video USA on July 24th, including behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and the trailer.]

September 2007

Trans-China Express
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