Chekhov famously acknowledged that you just shouldn’t introduce a gun within the first act of a play with out firing it off someday later. In director Gao Peng’s function debut, A Lengthy Shot, the gun in query is seen through the first 5 minutes after which stays unused till the finale. For the remainder of this murky, gritty thriller’s two-hour working time, firearms take a again seat to the rampant corruption and crime happening in China’s northeastern industrial wasteland, the place a longstanding iron and metal foundry is within the midst of a serious financial downturn.
The Fenglin Ferroalloy Manufacturing facility, an enormous rust-covered facility the place practically your entire film is ready, employs over 8,000 folks and is sort of a metropolis onto itself. However wages have gone unpaid for months, and the employees — or whoever’s left of them — are getting antsy. Defending the place in opposition to a wave of robberies is Gu Xuebing (Zu Feng), a former sharpshooter whose profession went south when he partially misplaced his listening to, forcing him to take a day job as considered one of Fenglin’s ruthless safety guards.
A Lengthy Shot
The Backside Line
A robust solid and setting overcome murky dramatics.
Venue: Tokyo Worldwide Movie Pageant (Competitors)
Solid: Zu Feng, Qin Hailu, Zhou Zhengjie, Shao Bing, Feng Lei
Director: Gao Peng
Screenwriters: Gao Peng, Wang Ang, Wang Wen, Fang Chang
1 hour 57 minutes
Gu serves beneath Chief Tian (Shao Bing) together with a half-dozen different goons, and so they type an ersatz police pressure in a spot that appears to abide by its personal guidelines. Suspects are routinely crushed and infrequently transferred to the common police, with the guards preferring to cope with issues on their very own. In addition they have entry to weapons — a rarity in China on the time, as acknowledged within the opening credit — however solely use them for emergencies.
Again dwelling in his dingy condominium, Gu is secretly making his personal handcrafted gun, hoping he can preserve practising the game that turned him right into a minor celeb in his province. He’s very a lot the loner, retaining to himself at work and sustaining a distant relationship with Jin Yujia (Qin Hailu, Cliff Walkers), a single mom residing throughout the road together with her teenage son, Geng Xiaojun (Zhou Zhengjie), who’s considerably of a thug.
After an extended setup, the plot of A Lengthy Shot kicks in as soon as Gu catches Geng attempting to steal scrap metallic from the manufacturing facility. As a substitute of turning the boy in, he decides to mentor him, instructing Geng the ropes of his job and doing his finest to maintain him in line. However the lure of crime is in all places, whether or not coming from the impoverished staff, gangsters lurking within the space, or, as we ultimately be taught, a few of Fenglin’s very personal managers.
Credited to 4 writers, together with director Peng, the screenplay depicts a crumbling industrial world marked by years of theft and distress, with everybody doing what they will to scrape by. Thieves danger their lives to steal rotting copper wires or broken-down machine elements, revealing to what extent that a part of China was in dire straits on the time, with state corporations privatized and typically going bankrupt.
Though it’s set within the mid-90s, A Lengthy Shot additionally appears to be alluding to the nation’s present financial droop, in addition to to an authoritarian system the place accountable working males like Gu discover themselves crushed by the powers that be. That side of the plot winds up colliding with a heist story that surfaces within the movie’s second half, resulting in a denouement that includes a bloody shootout happening on the manufacturing facility’s Fortieth-anniversary celebration.
Director Peng handles these closing scenes vividly, with bursts of gunfire obscured by the fixed explosion of firecrackers, and Gu’s do-it-yourself pistol lastly getting put to good use. It’s a stable ending that helps compensate for the movie’s considerably opaque plotting and languid drama, regardless of sturdy performances from Feng and the remainder of the solid.
What’s finally most memorable in A Lengthy Shot isn’t the gunplay however the setting itself, which resembles a small metropolis after it’s been hit by some form of dystopian disaster. Captured by cinematographer Florian Zinke (Two Tigers) in fifty shades of grey and brown, the Fenglin facility looms massive within the background like a warning of what China as soon as was, and may nonetheless develop into, if corruption will get the higher hand and morally sound males like Gu are few and much between.