A Touch of Sin

Released:  2013

Cast:  Jiang Wu, Zhao Tao, Wang Baoqiang

SUMMARY:  In modern China, a man named Dahai (Jiang Wu) has become concerned about the corruption of his local officials, particularly the village chief and local boss.  In particular, he is upset that these men have sold commercial property, promising to distribute the profits among the people, but instead kept the profits for themselves.  They have used these profits to buy themselves expensive and luxurious gifts, like cars and private airplanes.  Dahai tries to fight back legally.  He attempts to mail a letter of complaint, but is seemingly blocked by the post office clerk.  He also questions the accountant that handled the property sales, but the man refuses to tell him anything.  Dahai finally goes to the local boss and questions him about the issue in front of a crowd; after being put off by the boss, Dahai is brutally beaten by a bodyguard.  This proves to be the final straw for Dahai.  He returns home and retrieves a gun, which he wraps in a tiger tapestry.  He then finds the accountant and shoots him at point-blank range; when the man’s wife runs in, he shoots her too.  He then tracks down the village chief and local boss, and shoots them too, along with a few other people who interfere (six in total).  In another part of China, a man named Zhou San (Wang Baoqiang) rides a motorcycle down a highway; when he is stopped by three men who try to rob him, he simply shoots all three, then continues on.  He eventually arrives in his hometown of Chongqing just in time for the New Year.  By coincidence, his mother’s 70th birthday is being celebrated that day, and Zhou San goes to the party.  However, his family seems less than thrilled at his unexpected return; his mother, wife and son all have very little reaction.  Zhou San stays with his family for a little while, but cannot let go of the freedom and entertainment he gets from having/using a gun, and eventually leaves again.

The story then moves to a young woman named Xiao Yu (Zhao Tao), who is having an affair with a married man.  Fed up with the situation, she finally tells her boyfriend that he must either divorce his wife and live with her, or end their affair.  He promises to call in a few days with his decision.  Xiao Yu returns to her job as a receptionist at a spa.  One night, her boyfriend’s wife abruptly bursts in with several young men and begin attacking Xiao Yu; she finally escapes by hiding in the van of a traveling sideshow.  She continues to wait for her boyfriend to call, but he never does.  After getting off of work one evening, she goes to one of the upstairs rooms and begins washing some clothes by hand.  Suddenly two of the spa guests barge in and, believing that Xiao Yu is a prostitute, demand that she have sex with them.  Xiao Yu explains that she is a receptionist and shuts the door several times, but the men keep coming back in, growing more and more angry.  They seem to believe that Xiao Yu simply doesn’t think they’re rich enough customers, so one of them retrieves a stack of money and begins smacking her in the face with it.  His slaps grow more and more violent, but she continues to take them defiantly, until she suddenly seizes a knife and cuts the man’s chest with it.  She then stabs him several more times before leaving.  Finally, the story moves to Xiao Hui, a young man who is working in a garment factory.  When he accidentally causes an accident, he flees to another city and another job, in a glamorous and expensive hotel/brothel.  He meets and falls for one of the young women working there, but she ultimately tells him that there is no way that they can be together.  Xiao Hui returns to his hometown, and gets another job.  One evening he gets a call from his mother requesting money; Xiao Hui explains that he has sent her everything he can at the moment.  She then begins to berate him for being lazy and insufficient, causing Xiao Hui’s spirits, already low, to plummet further.  Not long after this, Xiao Hui throws himself from the balcony of his tiny shared apartment to the concrete below.

MY TAKE:  This is an odd movie, because the four stories are not related, and there’s not really any explanation of them.  You don’t know that there are four distinct parts, and you don’t know that the stories don’t really intertwine, so it’s a little like jumping into the deep end.  Being as I’m not very knowledgeable about China and its culture, some of the things were also a little hard for me to understand, like the government position in the Dahai story.  I don’t know if there were other options for him to pursue, instead of just blasting people.  The common theme among all of these stories is violence, and all but one of them involve murder.  The motives are different:  Dahai is fed up with corruption (and probably a little addled from being knocked upside the head with a shovel about ten times); Zhou San . . . I don’t know what his motive was, other than he just likes shooting people; Xiao Yu was tired of being abused and mistreated by those around her; Xiao Hui was just fed up with his life.  Interestingly, all four events were based on real occurrences in China.  Personally, I would have liked a more unified storyline.  It seemed more like four shorts put together rather than one cohesive movie.  It was also hard to really get into any of the stories, as you really don’t get a whole lot of time to understand and empathize with the character.  It’s an odd movie.

RATING:  Weird; kinda boring.

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