Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
INTRIGUING first feature film from director Li Yang, set in the
illegal coal-mining industry of China.
A pair of hardbitten miners, Song (Li Yixiang) and Tang (Wang
Shuangbao), have found a way to supplement their meagre wages:
they kill off a colleague underground, then claim compensation,
posing as the deceased's relatives, from the mine's owner.
Needless to say, the mine owner's are as corrupt as the protagonists,
so nobody asks any questions.
After claiming a hit, the pair then move on to another mine,
where they choose a new victim: in this case, an impoverished
student, Yuan Seng Ming, who has come to look not only for work,
but also for his father, who has mysteriously disappeared.
When Song and Tang find out that the new boy has the same surname
as their last target, they begin to panic - did they kill his
father? - and their close bond comes under severe strain.
To make things more difficult for the dastardly duo, Song develops
an avuncular affection for Yuan and keeps putting off the moment
of his execution.
So is the pair's grand scheme finally about to unravel because
one of them has developed a conscience?
Having researched his subject matter through working undercover
in the illegal mineshafts, Li Yang has crafted a credible work
that leans toward the documentary and captures perfectly the harsh,
uncompromising, uncomfortable lives lived by those occupying the
But there is little sympathy for the criminals here, they are
no Robin Hoods, they are exploited and they in turn exploit; in
short, they are tainted with the same brush of corruption as their
All in all, this is a good moral tale, well told, and sharply
depicted. The only thing that might rankle is the clumsily translated