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Saving Mr. Wu


Andy Lau and Wang Qianyuan in Saving Mr. Wu.



Year: 2015  
Director: Ding Sheng
Producer: Ding Sheng
Writer: Ding Sheng
Action: He Jun, Bruce Law Lai-Yin

Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Liu Ye, Wu Ruofu, Wang Qianyuan, Lam Suet, Li Meng, Cai Lu, Zhao Xiaorui, Yu Ailei, Lu Peng

The Skinny: Entertaining police procedural that features the delightful casting of Andy Lau as an Andy Lau-like superstar actor who uses his acting skills to outwit his kidnappers. The actual cop stuff isnít that special but the character interplay and sharp dialogue are tops, and Wang Qianyuan is phenomenal as the wickedly smart villain. Co-starring Wu Ruofu, whose real life 2004 kidnapping inspired the film.
by Kozo:

Saving Mr. Wu is a step up from director Ding Shengís previous film, the blockbuster Police Story 2013, and a big reason is his lead actors. Whereas Police Story 2013 was held back by its star Jackie Chan, whoís never been comfortable in straight cop thrillers, Saving Mr. Wu takes on an added layer of entertainment thanks to the presence of megastar Andy Lau. The Peopleís Idol stars in the entertainingly meta role of Mr. Wu, a superstar actor kidnapped by devious ex-con Zhang Hua, played wickedly by China actor Wang Qianyuan (Piano in a Factory). The film opens with Mr. Wuís kidnapping, during which Zhang Hua and his gang impersonate policemen, before jumping ahead 20 hours. Zhang Hua has since been captured and is under interrogation by the police, led by Captain Cao Gang (Wu Ruofu) and his right-hand guy Xing Feng (Liu Ye), both of whom are serious about their crime-solving, law-enforcing duties. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to get Zhang Hua to spill the beans.

The cops want Mr. Wu now but Zhang Hua is jocular and uncooperative. Soon the film begins jumping around in time, revealing what happened after Mr. Wuís kidnapping and even some moments before the crime. Mr. Wu was actually the second person kidnapped; the first was Dou (Cai Lu), a dopey loser who canít afford the ransom, and heís now being held captive with Mr. Wu in the suburbs by Zhang Huaís three accomplices, who range from misguided to potentially psychotic. While Mr. Wu deals with Dou and the kidnappers, Zhang Hua reveals that heís smarter than your average perp. The cops quickly identify Zhang Hua as a suspect, but heís cagey about being tailed, and even when heís in custody he has matters planned out several steps ahead. His schemes arenít foolproof Ėthe cops do get closer to solving the crime, though their progress is due less to ingenuity and more to hard work and general competence. These cops are good but itís their dedication and not cop movie clichťs that carry the day.

Saving Mr. Wu is largely a procedural, following the cops and criminals at various points in time, and the non-linear storytelling has the potential to lose inattentive audiences. The actual police investigation isnít really that special, but Ding Shengís direction (he also handles producing, editing and writing duties) creates consistent, gritty energy. Effective use of handheld camera and Dingís sharp editing keep the pace brisk, even during scenes of people standing around talking in crowded police stations. Action sequences are grounded, with chases featuring Liu Ye running through traffic or climbing fences. He also participates in some takedowns that are quick and donít feature much actual fighting, but Ding sharply sets up situations to extract maximum tension. Also, Bruce Lawís car action is immediate and exciting, and is helped by the editing and camerawork, which keeps action kinetic without making it hard-to-follow. The strong momentum is contrasted by quieter sequences, which offer perfunctory character or relationship asides but also necessary breathing room away from the pavement-pounding investigation.

Character interaction is where the film really shines. The script offers incisive dialogue and doesnít resort to actor grandstanding to affect. Conversations have multiple levels, providing audience understanding without sacrificing character or story logic. Ding Sheng pulled off similar feats in his other films, which established character in the midst of difficult situations, but he raises that skill to another level here. The meat of the film is in these tense exchanges between Mr. Wu and his kidnappers or Zhang Hua and the cops. Itís also where the majority of the filmís surprise and entertainment happen. Having Andy Lau is a major plus. Besides the fan service (Lauís songs and movies are delightfully referenced), the film capitalizes on Lauís righteous and sympathetic public persona. When Mr. Wu rails at his kidnappers about their integrity, itís easy to buy because you can imagine Andy Lau doing the same in real life. Also, Lau plays an actor who slyly uses his acting skills to outwit his own kidnappers. The coolness of this setup is too great for words.

Andy Lauís awesomeness aside, Wang Qianyuan is the most impressive as the three-dimensional villain. Zhang Hua is willing to rob and kill yet still shows an identifiable human side, and Wang portrays his complexities with astonishing intelligence and charisma. Wang easily outclasses regular Ding Sheng cast member Liu Ye, whoís mostly here to outmuscle bad guys and occasionally talk to his wife on the phone, as well as fourth lead Wu Ruofu, who offers solid veteran presence. However, thereís a greater reason for Wu Ruofuís casting: Saving Mr. Wu is actually based on his own 2004 kidnapping. The story obviously takes liberties with the real criminal case, and Wu Ruofu is no Andy Lau in terms of star stature or acting chops (Sorry, Ruofu!), but itís amazing to see all these elements come together on film. We get a skillfully-directed kidnapping thriller, some layered commentary on acting and movies, some Andy Lau-as-Andy Lau fan love, and finally the cathartic sight of Wu Ruofu busting his own kidnapper! How strange and wonderfully meta is Saving Mr. Wu? Survey says: Very. (Kozo, 12/2015)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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