“The gods are to blame – if you have grievances, tell heaven about them!”
This violent, outrageous and brilliantly cinematographed movie by Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke tells about four random crime stories based on real events that spread out in some places in China. The English title is likely an Easter egg to 1971’s wuxia movie, A Touch of Zen. A Touch of Sin was nominated at Cannes and winning Best Screenplay nomination. The movie starts with first story about Dahai (Jiang Wu), a coal mine worker who smelled corruption scandal by mine elites. He’s the only one insisting to reveal the corruption culture that adverse the villagers for too long. Through all his struggle, he tried to convince other workers to be aware that they had years of losses due to corruption of the elites. And like other leftist movements, reactions obtained by Dahai were violent and painful that led him into a brutal rampage.
Three other stories also came out from similar contradiction of China’s economic explosion. There are stories tells about a migrant worker trying to make living for his family, an abused parlor massage receptionist and a depressive young labor working in exploitative factory. Those four tales in this movie are not directly connected, yet they’re narrated in the same trajectory: a cumulative depression that causes each character to react brutally, especially in the case of Dahai—which becomes almost enigmatic. Zhang-ke brilliantly puts Dahai and other main characters into their breaking point against the conflict in the exact moment: difference choices, whether good or bad, lost in vague; as crime acts in this movie came out whether from “something” or even out of thin air.
Displaying the very latest modern day of China, socially and economically, the true events that inspire A Touch of Sin happened not so long ago. Some incidents occurred within 2001 until 2013, including Zhou Kehua’s serial shootout between 2004-2012, and Deng Youjiao incident in 2009. Yet worst of all, I don’t really suspect Zhang-ke gave a real “message” about China signature’s animal cruelty, but somehow, I thought so. There are scenes of horse being whipped savagely and a scene of duck’s neck slit so open for no reason. The screenwriting is well-executed and decent. The cinematography, especially the murder scene, are stunning; almost reminding me of Park Chan-wook’s and Tarantino’s works: violent, black and bold. For in-depth scenes, sometimes the realistic scene shifts into surreal one. Just like the scene when you hear roaring tiger, following Dahai covers his shotgun with tiger-adorned cloth, which becomes my favorite pictures in this movie. Yes, obviously, you can see that in its cinematic poster already.
Despite being so violent, A Touch of Sin kicks in the necessary way. Its thoughtful for any kind of policy and view. That humanity should not be separated from human itself, whatever it is. After all, A Touch of Sin is a violently deep and worth movie to watch.
A Touch of Sin (2013)
“Tian zhu ding”
Drama, Action Written & Directed by: Jia Zhang-ke Starred by: Jiang Wu, Luo Lanshan, Zhang Jia-yi, Zhao Tao, Wang Baoqiang, Li Vivien Running Time: 133 mins Unrated