2 Best Movies to Watch by Jiang Wu

Staff & contributors

“It is better to live miserable than to die happy,” or so says one of the characters in Jia Zhangke’s anthology film A Touch of Sin. On its surface, the “sin” referenced in the title might pertain to the acts of murder that the four protagonists commit, but in the context of China’s rapidly changing capitalist landscape (a theme explored in the director’s other pictures), it reveals itself as a malady shared by Chinese laborers treated as dispensable resources by the powers-that-be. Murder, then, is explored as an extremity, the effectual breaking point of people no longer able to contain the injustice within themselves. Beneath the splatters of blood is a plea for empathy and understanding, at once remorseful and full of conviction.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Actor: Baoqiang Wang, Han Dong, Jiang Wu, Jin Zhang, Li Meng, Lu Liu, Luo Lanshan, Qiang Wang, Wang Baoqiang, Wang Hongwei, Wang Qiang, Zhang Jiayi, Zhang Jin, Zhao Tao

Director: Jia Zhangke

, 2011

Being named after the genre, Wu xia, the title replaced in English as Dragon, would understandably follow its conventions with dramatic action in ancient China. The plot roughly follows a typical wuxia thread, where a hidden master is revealed, leading to plenty of exciting adventures, and they seek justice in order to return to a state of peace. But the way Dragon approaches this plot is exciting, as the film mixes in the investigation of a murder mystery, with a determined detective suspecting the master through his knowledge of the body, through an eclectic mix of forensics, medicine, and Qi acupuncture. And as the detective is consistently challenged by the former fighter, it’s clear how difficult it can be to master the body, especially after going through trauma and violence and self-doubt. The threads in the film are familiar, but Dragon understands what makes these threads work, and the way these are woven together makes for a good movie to watch.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Donnie Yen, Ethan Juan, Hua Yan, Jiang Wu, Jimmy Wang Yu, Kang Yu, Kara Hui, Kara Wai Ying-Hung, Kenji Tanigaki, Li Jia-Min, Li Xiaoran, Peter Chan, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei, Wang Chunyuan, Wei Tang, Wu Jiang, Xiao Ran Li, Yin Zhusheng, Yu Kang, Yu Wang, Zheng Wei, Zhou Bo

Director: Peter Chan

Rating: R