The good stuff
There's a whole lot of U Turn in here, a bit of Coens maybe, a dash of Western flavour and topped off with plenty of Chinese touches.
Entertaining crime comedy with a solid dark edge that adds plenty of fun. Hao Ning would go on to perfect this style in No Man's Land, Silver Medalist was a clear stepping stone to get there. It's one of those film I might have given a higher rating if I'd seen it upon release, 10 years down the line it's just difficult not to compare this with the director's other films.
The film follows Geng Hao, a cyclist with notorious bad luck. After winning the silver medal in a race, a sleazy businessman exploits him and Hao gets banned from cycling for use amphetamines. It's the start of a series of unfortunate events that involves serial killers, drug dealers and a couple with serious marital problems.
The film looks very slick and stylish, Bo Huang is perfect for his role here and even though quite a few people die, there's plenty of comedy to keep it light. I really have nothing bad to say about this film, except that Ning did everything just that little better in No Man's Land. Recommended if you like dark comedies.
There's a lot of flag-waving and chest-thumping going on here, but look past that and you'll find a decent anthology celebrating the achievements of the little people, helmed by some of China's prime directors. It was a little too sentimental and overdone in places, but it wasn't as terrible as I had initially feared it would be.
A decent romantic road movie by Hao Ning, sporting a solid comedy foundation. That's not a big surprise knowing Bo Huang was cast for the lead role. Together with Zheng Xu he forms a nice duo, as they undertake a haphazard road trip to take Huang's mind off of his messy divorce.
It's not unlike Zhi's Love Speaks released just a year earlier, which also featured two people stuck in the Chinese countryside. Breakup Buddies focuses more on male bonding and trying to get over a busted relationship though, not so much on forming a new one, which makes for a slightly different dynamic (though less than you might expect).
The comedy is only so-so and the film's a bit long, especially since the material isn't all that special or deep. But the cinematography is very slick and Ning made excellent use of the setting. Performances are also pretty decent. This isn't one of Ning's best films, but it's solid filler that passes the time quite effortlessly.
Worthy but flawed
Chinese pep talk. I think this is the second Chinese blockbuster anthology made with a single goal in mind: make China look good on the silver screen. It's no surprise these film have started to pop up over there now that their local market is booming, they're simply copying Hollywood's playbook.
It's a bit of a bummer though, as these project tend to usurp quality directors (like Hao Ning here), forcing them to put out subpar films. The five shorts on display here aren't terrible, but their intentions are a bit too obvious and the film is so polished that it gets a little nauseating after a while.
China's most familiar actors (Bo Huang, You Ge, Baoqiang Wang, ...) are all present, the cinematography is nice and colorful and there are some quirky stories, but there's not enough variation, there's no grit and all the film offer the same self-boasting fuzzy feelgood nonsense. I hope this will be the end of it, but since these films are doing pretty well at the box office I doubt it very much.