This was adapted by young writer Liu Heng from his own short story about an ex-con trying to go straight in the back alleys of Beijing, but finding himself dragged down by the crime and violence he encounters. Film-school teacher Xie Fei keeps it all very low-key, but has no obvious point of view about the characters or the material. What brings the film to life is the writing (realistic to a fault, but very sharply observed), and the superb central performance of Jiang Wen, previously seen in films like Red Sorghum and Hibiscus Town. Jiang really is in the class of Gary Oldman: a young actor capable of inhabiting a role in a way that makes his smallest gesture count.
Cast and crew