With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BLACK COAL, THIN ICE reviewed; debuts today on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD from Well Go USA

Well Go USA
Black Coal, Thin Ice
Written & Directed by Yi’nan Diao 
China, 2014, 106 minutes

Black Coal, This Ice is an outstanding police procedural written and directed by Yi’nan Diao (Night Train, Uniform). It debuts today, September 29th, on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD from Well Go USA Entertainment. For this review, I watched the Blu-ray version.

The film begins in 1999 as a human hand and forearm are found in a coal delivery, the latest body parts that have been found in such deliveries in cities scattered across an entire Chinese province. Based on an ID card and clothes, the victim is identified as Liang Zhijun (Xuebing Wang, Beijing Love Story), who for eight years had worked at a truck scale station that weighed coal deliveries.

Based on the cities where the parts have been found and the fact that only one driver made deliveries to all those cities around the time the body parts began to show up, the police arrest the driver, Liu Fayin, and a relative. However, things go wrong as the arrests are being made and several individuals are killed or injured. One of those injured is Sgt. Zhang Zili, played by Fan Liao (Chinese Zodiac).

Five years later, Zhang has been transferred to a security team, a much lower position. He regularly shows up for work late and drunk. One day he notices Detective Wang, a former colleague, in a car and goes over to say hello. It turns out that Wang is on a stakeout, leading the investigation of Wu Zhizhen, the widow of Liang Zhijun. Wu, a laundry shop clerk, is played by Lun Mei Gwei (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate). It seems that two men who have been interested in Wu have going missing.

Zhang takes it upon himself to investigate the case, drawn to Wu and hoping to redeem himself from the fiasco of five years ago. He discovers that all is not necessarily as it seems and his personal involvement with Wu threatens to color his response to his findings.

Black Coal, Thin Ice has won several awards at various film festivals, including the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, where Yi’nan Diao received the Golden Bear award and Fan Liao won the Silver Bear award as Best Actor. Yi'nan Diao won Best Screenwriter and Fan Liao Best Actor at the 2015 Asian Film Awards, and Yi'nan Diao also won Best Director at the 2014 Odessa International Film Festival.

Disc Specs
-- Audio:
  -- Mandarin DTS-HD 5.1
  -- Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0
-- Subtitles:
  -- English
  -- Off
-- Extras:
  -- Black Coal, Thin Ice trailer
  -- Trailers of three other Well Go USA releases
    -- Wild City
    -- Z Storm
    -- Killers

In general, I haven't had a very high opinion of recent Mainland Chinese films, but Black Coal, Thin Ice is an exception. It's a smart, well-written, directed and acted crime thriller that really delivers. It has some nice plot developments and maintains a high degree of suspense.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended

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