Blind Shaft

on February 06, 2004 by Tim Cogshell
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The illegal coal mines of China's vast wastelands are dark places in more ways than one. They are the kinds of places where one may not only lose their way (or their life), but their sense of morality as well. Such is the case with Song Jinming (Li Yixiang) and Tang Zhaoyang (Wang Shuangbao), itinerant coal workers who may have once been decent people. The mines have taken their toll, and Song and Tang devise a plan to earn a better wage. After convincing a new co-worker that it would be in his best interest to pretend to be Tang's brother, they kill him, making it look like a negligence, to extort money from the mine owners. Moving on to a new town, Song and Tang decide that if once is good, twice is better.
"Blind Shaft" is written and directed by Li Yang, adapted from a novel by Chinese author Liu Qingbang. The Chinese-born Yang trained in Germany and Cologne, where he must have picked up some of that existential angst--either there or from the films of Alfred Hitchcock. If one had to compare him to an American contemporary, Brian De Palma in his better moments ("Body Double" and "The Untouchables") comes to mind. Yang's film is taut and stylish, and the tension and the sense of moral ambiguity are maintained well after it might have become a DePalma film in his lesser moments ("Raising Cain," "Snake Eyes"). Starring Li Yixiang, Wang Shuangbao and Wang Baoqiang. Directed, written and produced by Li Yang. A Kino release. Drama/Thiller. Mandarin-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 92 min
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