Categories :

‘The Bargain’ Review: Slow, Sprawling Tale of an Estranged Chinese Family on the Edge – Yahoo Entertainment

A morose drama that never quite lives up to the promise of its moody, noirish atmosphere, Wang Qi’s “The Bargain” does at least look the part of the gritty, crime-shaded sprawling urban saga. But however tactile and textured the photography, and however pleasurable the rendering of the city’s outskirts as a kind of gloomy nocturnal limbo, over a near two-hour runtime, the overriding impression of is of too little actual substance spread thinly across this deserted, forbidding nighttime streetscape, and of lives of quiet desperation that could stand to be a portrayed a bit more loudly.
Shifting its point of view between three protagonists who are all related to each other is a persuasive idea that ought to yield a prismatic, intergenerational portrait of the low-level dissatisfactions and disillusionments rife within this broken, lower-middle class Shanghainese family. Instead the split focus has the tendency to kill whatever momentum any one storyline may have built up when it switches to the next. Not that there’s too much of that. The screenplay, written by Yang Xin Yang, is at such pains to keep things in a naturalist, non-melodramatic register that it will always skew towards the underpowered rather than the overstated, an admirable instinct but perhaps one indulged too far here.
More from Variety
'The Odd-Job Men' Review: A Charming, Slight Yet Sharp Spanish Odd-Couple Comedy
'Gensan Punch' Review: Brillante Ma Mendoza Tells True Story of a Disabled Boxer's Fight for Recognition
'Întregalde' Review: Subtle, Superb, Funny-Sad Satire on the Hypocrisy of Charity
At first, however, a knotty premise is set up as Liu (Jiang Qi Ming), a round-faced bald-headed businessman who can at times resemble a particularly cherubic Buddha, is trying to offload his failing travel agency onto a couple of sharp-eyed new buyers. They politely decline the opportunity, and Liu returns dejectedly to work to the news that one of his drivers has been found deep in a coma in his car parked on Liu’s lot overnight. The man is brought to hospital, but when his vegetative state appears not to be improving, his relatives arrive to demand that Liu, as his employer at the time of his affliction, shoulder the financial responsibility not only for his medical care but for the loss of income that his wife and children will now suffer.
Liu holds out for a time, resisting the pressure to buy the man’s family off — a situation whose financial stakes the film makes clearer than its moral stakes, as it’s never thoroughly explained to what extent Liu actually feels himself responsible for the man’s plight, and Jiang’s genial but ambivalent performance doesn’t give us much access to the character’s deeper recesses.
Liu’s son Weiguo (Zhang Qi), a too-cool-for-school type with a messy haircut and a surly attitude, is another thorn in his side. As is becoming increasingly de rigueur for the kids of middle-class Chinese parents who aspire to upward social mobility, Weiguo went to college in America, though not, as he’s quick to point out at an interview arranged by his mother, to “one of the good ones.” Ill at ease among his fellow candidates for the job, the unambitious, sullen Weiguo skips out before he’s even been called in and instead drifts aimlessly toward the fringes of his Dad’s industry, falling in with a shady bunch of illegal, off-the-books drivers who provide an entree into Shanghai’s petty crime netherworld.
This is all to the increasing frustration of Weiguo’s mother, and Liu’s estranged ex-wife Tao (Zhang Lu). A schoolteacher who — also against the rules — provides evening tutoring sessions to earn a little extra cash, Tao is also in a relationship with a commitment-phobic new guy, but mostly appears to live for her son, for which in true spoiled only-child fashion, Weiguo repays her with nothing but sulky scorn. For all three of these disaffected characters, the depressingly transactional nature of all their interactions is underlined, as each deals in their own way with an alienating environment in which the only way to get ahead appears to be work some sort of grift.
Ashizawa Akiko’s dense, rich cinematography is a strong asset, as are the uniformly solid performances, even if the actors must operate in a register so restrained it can feel like every second sparse line of dialogue is a muted mumble. And the rhythms set up by Echo Gong’s editing could certainly be tighter and pacier. Still, as a polished, confident technical feat, Wang’s third film (after “Caochang” and “Autumn Leaves”) is impressive, though if one of “The Bargain’s” many bargains is that which is struck with the audience, there’s just not quite enough here that’s illuminating enough to make us feel like we got the better end of the deal.
Best of Variety
The Best Albums of the Decade
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
DC FanDome 2021 has given us a lot of dark nights to think about in the explosive first full trailer for Matt Reeves' The Batman. The post THE BATMAN Trailer Shows the Nastiest Gotham Yet appeared first on Nerdist.
Bond's wardrobe grows up
Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam has finally come to life. After over a decade of development, fans finally got a first look at “Black Adam,” the feature film starring Johnson as the DC Comics anti-hero and sworn nemesis of Shazam! Johnson unveiled the teaser on Saturday to open DC Fandome, the virtual fan event designed to […]
Robert Pattinson employed Bruce Wayne's signature deep and gruff voice in the latest teaser for "The Batman," the full trailer for which was revealed early Saturday
Hopefully this will help me sleep a little better…View Entire Post ›
The actor appeared in a video from the set of the DC sequel
The race for the new James Bond begins!
Ezra Miller premiered the first look at his upcoming "Flash" film at WB's DC FanDome event on Saturday.
Horror sequel heads for $50 million opening, while Ridley Scott drama falls to just $4 million
Universal and Blumhouse’s “Halloween Kills” topped the weekend box office with a $50.4 million debut, giving theater owners hope that the exhibition industry is experiencing a fall resurgence. That’s a bloody good showing for “Halloween Kills” considering that the film is being release simultaneously in theaters and on-demand via Peacock, NBCUniversal’s in-house Netflix challenger. That […]
Daniel Craig bid farewell to the Bond franchise with "No Time To Die." Here's how Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and more Bonds made their exit.
He's really nailed the whole growling voice thing.View Entire Post ›
"The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change…"View Entire Post ›
Wonder Woman 3 is a go and will star a couple of familiar faces. Find out more info about Patty Jenkins' third film in the franchise that introduced the world to Gal Gadot.
Adam Driver is haunting, but it's Ben Affleck who steals the spotlight in every scene where he shows up.
The success of The Battle at Lake Changjin is bad news for Hollywood which wants to grow in China.
Could this be any more wholesome? Watch Jay-Z's reaction to seeing longtime family friend Kelly Rowland at the premiere of his new film, which he attended with wife Beyoncé.
Although the movie hasn’t begun production yet, DC gave a first-look at the concept art for their live-action Batgirl. In July, Leslie Grace was tapped to play Barbara Gordon after her breakout performance in In The Heights. Grace joined the directors, Adil El Arbi and Bill Fallah, and screenwriter Christina Hodson at today’s DC Fandome to talk […]
Here's what we know about the Hocus Pocus sequel on Disney Plus, including the cast of Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler and when Hocus Pocus 2 premieres.
The truth about Michael Myers, revealed (maybe)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *