Set in Wuhan, this stylish thriller should delight film noir novices.
Chinese director Yi’nan Diao’s follow-up to his 2014 Golden Bear-winning Black Coal, Thin Ice was one of last year’s most absorbing films, a neo-noir crime thriller that saw the filmmaker team up once more with cinematographer Dong Jingsong and several of his previous cast, including Fan Liao, who won Best Actor in Berlin.
Set in Wuhan, The Wild Goose Lake starts, like so many of these stories tend to do, with a rainy underpass meeting between a stoic gangster (Ge Hu) and a mysterious femme fatale (Gwei Lun-Mei) who asks him for a light. Sounds simple enough, but this short description doesn’t do justice to the labyrinthine intrigue that unfurls: flashbacks, tiffs with gang members, bounties, double-crosses, and a score-settling job mean that your full attention is required for Diao’s fourth feature. It treads similar ground to his previous film, but benefits hugely from a stylish and heavy atmosphere that revels in perpetual night-time, torrential rain, and enough neon lighting to make Wong Kar-wai and Nicolas Winding Refn collectively swoon. The inventively choreographed brawl scenes and some hard-to-shake moments of violence (including a bloody inventive kill in the explosive climax) are also a highlight, as is the potent mix of noir conventions with socio-political subtext. It might fall short of Black Coal, Thin Ice, but it remains a fiendishly knotty and visually stylish manhunt thriller that should delight Diao’s fans and film noir novices.
The Wild Goose Lake (Nan fang che zhan de ju hui) / Directed by Yi’nan Diao (China, 2019), with Ge Hu, Gwei Lun-Mei, Fan Liao. Starts August 27.