Livelier and better crafted than most of the recent Asian films that make their way to us, Xiaozhi Rao’s second film, the Chinese Wu ming zhi bei/A Cool Fish seems to have connected with audiences here and on its own turf. After a month it was still drawing a respectable turn out in George Street. That's unusual for one of these.
The action begins with a loan shark's demo on the site of the building complex, which has stalled leaving buyers homeless. A web of subplots prove to be connected. Would-be gang heavies “Bra” (Zhang Yu), short for “Cobra”, and “Big Head” (Pan Binlong) stuff up a bank robbery which ends with their escape motor bike in the telegraph lines above the street.
Their flight lands them in the flat of paralysed Suxi Ren (particularly good) who is harassed by a lecherous neighbor. Her ex-cop brother Jianbin Chen (Yi ge shao zi/A Fool 2014) sees the recovery of the gun used in the robbery as a way of re-instating himself with the force but ends up in a round-up at the La Parisienne massage parlor and his daughter seeing him being hustled into the station with the rest of the personnel.
This all climaxes at the mock funeral of the fugitive developer, played by Yanhui Wang, where the police come to grab the armed robbers but instead find themselves keeping students and gangsters from injuring themselves in a metal pipes against tennis racquets confrontation.
The basic gag has the characters' heroic ambitions contrasted with incompetent reality. It works pretty well, running to comical suicide and the no-hoper criminals gaining surprising status and dignity as events play out.
Nobody likes the ending which, as with Hong Kong films of the eighties, seems to have been tacked on to placate viewers - or censors - after the logical conclusion, literally a shotgun wedding.
This expertly made film has a different look to the Chinese productions that normally reach us. I can’t identify the city where it’s set.