films seen
average score
China - 46 years old
Alive and kicking
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No Man's Land

Wu Ren Qu
2013 / 118m - China
No Man's Land poster

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.

Guns n' Roses

Huang Jin Da Jie An
2012 / 108m - China
Comedy, Action
Guns n' Roses poster

Silver Medallist

Feng Kuang De Sai Che
2009 / 104m - China
Comedy, Crime
Silver Medallist poster

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.

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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.

Crazy Alien

Feng Kuang De Wai Xing Ren
2019 / 116m - China
Comedy, Sci-fi
Crazy Alien poster

Decent Hao Ning blockbuster, but not his best work. It's another Chinese film trying to find an audience oversees (some semi-famous American actors were hired), these rarely turn out too well. Some cheesy CG and questionable jokes keep the film from its best form, but it's still quirky and weird enough to make it worth a try.

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Aliens are trying to make contact with us humans, but the American delegation makes a mess of things. The alien crashes down on Earth and ends up in China, next to an amusement park. A monkey trainer and his pal take the alien in, which is not really the welcome he was hoping for.

This is a pretty typical Bo Huang comedy, meaning it's all very overstated and farcical. The American delegation is a bit annoying though, and the jokes are rarely funny. It's the concept that makes this film stand out, and while there are some funny ideas and neat departures, it's never quite as out there as it could've been.

My People, My Country

Wo He Wo De Zu Guo
2019 / 158m - China
Drama - Anthology
My People, My Country poster

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.

Breakup Buddies

Xin Hua Lu Fang
2014 / 116m - China
Comedy, Romance
Breakup Buddies poster

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.

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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.

Crazy Stone

Feng Kuang De Shi Tou
2006 / 98m - China
Comedy, Crime
Crazy Stone poster

My People, My Homeland

Wo He Wo De Jia Xiang
2020 / 153m - China
Drama - Anthology
My People, My Homeland poster

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.

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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.

Mongolian Ping Pong

Lü Cao Di
2005 / 102m - China
Mongolian Ping Pong poster

Hoa Ning's early work. Before he started a string of kooky dark comedies, he directed a film that is little more than a look at Mongolian culture. There's a simple narrative that gets you from start to finish, but it's really just an excuse to take a peep at Mongolian people and how they live/what they do.

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A small ping pong ball floats down the river and ends up in the hands of some Mongolian kids. They take the ball with them, unaware of its function. The elders don't really know it either and they claim it to be a gift from the gods. The mystery remains until a TV show reveals the true use of the little ball.

The cinematography is very plain, the setting is pretty uninviting and the premise is too thin to support the runtime. I guess it's a nice film if you're clueless about Mongolian culture and you don't care about the technical/aesthetic aspects of a film, but then there must be documentaries that better fit the purpose. Not good.