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Guns and Roses 《黄金大劫案》(Ning Hao, 2012)

Original title: 《黄金打劫案》
English title: Guns and Roses
Director: Ning Hao (宁浩)
Starring: Lei Jiayin (雷佳音), Tao Hong (陶虹), Yamasaki Keiichi (山崎敬一), Fan Wei (范伟).

The local street thug Xiao Dongbei (小东北) suddenly becomes entwined in a great heist after receiving detailed plans for the route of an armored transport carrying 8 tons of gold. With the unrequited help from a handful members of the Revolutionary Party (革命党) Xiao Dongbei and his father not only find themselves questioning the value of money but also their allegiance towards their country and its future.

Taking place during the 1930s in a Japanese occupied Manchuria and directed by Ning Hao this movie has all the ingredients for a great film experience. Sadly this is not the case. Guns and Roses offers some good action sequences but the story in itself is being held down by the lack of smooth transition between scenes (one scene gave the impression of being imagined by the characters but actually happened) and overly emotional scenes which at times has the aesthetic quality of a Chinese soap opera. And yes, at certain times we can also hear the sentimental lonely piano being played in the background.

The good parts of the film is held up by the supporting actors. Yamasaki Keiichi is great as the sadistic Japanese officer who uses a game as to expose the enemies of the Japanese empire. Guo Tao (郭涛) is hilarious as the old boxer rebellion champion whos fearless attitude originate more from insanity than from courage.

Guns and Roses actually starts off pretty well with some funny dialogue scenes, the introduction of the cast and the ethical dilemma produced when Xiao Dongbei has to choose between fortune or to save his nation (救国), but as the story progresses the grey area of moral ambiguity vanishes and what is left is the emulation of filial piety and martyrdom. One interesting aspect of the movie is that filial piety and interpersonal affection is inferior to the well being of the nation. And this is especially made clear in the ending with a shootout in a very Sam Peckinpahs The Wild Bunch kind of way.

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