Crazy Stone
China 2006
Directed by Ning Hao.

Andy Lau and Focus Films did a wonderful service to Asian Cinema fans by funding Focus: First Cuts, a half dozen films by inexperienced, sometimes first-time directors from a number of asian countries. The China entry in the production range was CRAZY STONE, and the comedy caper ended up being a huge hit, its success putting the entire project in the black.

The success of CRAZY STONE is happily entirely deserved. It's a crime caper film that owes much of its premise from Guy Ritchie's SNATCH -- a jade is discovered and put on display, defended by an amateur security force, and coveted by a number of criminals who want it for themselves. But instead of dismissing the film as a knock-off of SNATCH, I found myself embracing it as an enthrallingly intimate look at modern China, and the daily life of regular people underneath the veneer of China's economic miracle. Due to a tight, well-written script, and natural acting from a cast of unknowns, the inspiration of the film becomes irrelevant, its new setting everything.

The Jade is found in a factory being demolished to make way for a new housing development. The developers are corrupt, the factory workers haven't been paid for eight months, the factory owner holding out, seemingly in defence of the workers, but more likely for a better deal for himself. The owner puts it on display in the old factory, guarded by out of work workers, who at one point rig a security system using the flush sensor from a urinal to rig a motion alarm. The workers eek out a living at the same economic scale as the theives, in one of the many coincidences in the film, they are living in the same run down apartment complex, in rooms right next to one another.

The film takes place outside of the booming towns like Shenzhen or Shanghai, in Chongqing, where the same modernizing forces are at play but at a smaller scale and with less opportunity. This comedy gives you a sense of how living in these times is like, and for that alone it is worth watching. Add to the fact that it is very cleverly written and entertaining, CRAZY STONE is highly recommended.

Rating: Highly Recommended (Highly Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on September 08, 2007.

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