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Crazy Stone

Guo Tao checks out the Crazy Stone
Chinese: 瘋狂的石頭  
Year: 2006  
Director: Ning Hao  
  Producer: Yang Buting, Zhou Lin, Daniel Yu
  Cast: Guo Tao, Liu Hua, Huang Bo, Yue Xiaojun, Teddy Lin Chun, Hou Shu, Chen Zhenghua, Peng Bo, Gang Liu, Wang Xun, Xu Zheng, Wang Jianing, Jie Du, Ning Hao
  The Skinny: This Mainland Chinese contribution to Andy Lau's Focus First Cuts series turned out to be a box office sensation and, quite possibly, the most engaging film of the bunch. While Crazy Stone initially suffers a tad due to its lack of obvious star power, it more than makes up for that with confident direction, strong ensemble performances, and a disorienting, crackerjack narrative style. It's also very funny.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

Director Ning Hao's Crazy Stone, the lone Mainland Chinese entry in Andy Lau's Focus First Cuts series, is a gloriously funny caper flick, featuring an ensemble cast of characters who find themselves at cross-purposes over the fate of a precious jade stone. What ensues is more or less a madcap farce of epic proportions, but the intricacies of the razor-sharp plot make Crazy Stone a tough film to do justice to in summary form. Even so, here's the gist of things…

Set in Chongqing, this inventive low budget flick hinges on the unearthing of a valuable jade stone. This amazingly lucky find occurs inside a decrepit-looking factory which is scheduled to be sold off to a greedy Hong Kong developer, another fact that propels the Crazy Stone's remarkably fast-paced narrative. Realizing that the rare jade might be a way to get himself out of a dire financial predicament, the factory director (Chen Zhonghua) arranges a public exhibition showcasing the rare piece of jade. To protect it from theft, the old man enlists Bao Shihong (Guo Tao), a former cop-turned-factory worker, to handle security detail.

Pitted against Bao are two rival factions, both of whom are independently looking to snatch the stone out from under the new chief of security. On one side, we have three not-so-intelligent thieves: Dao (Liu Hua), Xiaojun (Yue Xiaojun), and Hei Pei (Huang Bo). On the other, there's a slick professional burglar (Teddy Lin Chun) from Hong Kong. Complicating this already convoluted cast of characters and motives is would-be photographer Charles (Peng Bo), who's actually the factory director's son. He's a complete lout who'll do just anything to get a woman into bed. While each side has their own intricate plan to swipe the jade, serious complications arise when Charles swaps the jade for a duplicate in order to impress an arcade hottie (Hou Shou). And as if the old switcheroo weren't problematic enough, it turns out she's Dao's girl! Misunderstandings, chance encounters, and all sorts of crazy situations ensue, all building one on top of the other, as we speed onward to the film's exciting, hilarious finale.

Crazy Stone differs from most caper films in a number of different ways. For one, the sleek, cool-as-a-cucumber thieves from films like Ocean's 11 or the Italian Job are totally absent here. In their place, we have a trio of petty thieves who are out-and-out bunglers. Placing these incompetent burglars within the familiar genre of the heist movie creates all sorts of amusing new complications. Secondly, unlike other caper films, Crazy Stone doesn't focus its attention on one particular party, but divides your loyalties among several groups. Eventually, I found myself gravitating toward Bao, not just because he's the film's requisite "good guy," but due to Guo Tao's winning performance. As the film wears on, it's clear that Bao has the most to lose: his job, his health, and - quite often - his temper, with hilarious results.

The third difference is a matter of casting. Simply put, Crazy Stone lacks the presence of any identifiable stars, and although that initially feels like a deficit - the film introduces numerous characters at such a breakneck pace that the viewer can't help but be overwhelmed and disoriented - the no-name cast eventually becomes a hidden asset. Without superstar actors, there's no mental baggage to attribute to the characters, and thus you can buy into the world of the film more readily. Without the built-in expectations of what a recognizable actor brings to the role, you're not quite sure what'll happen next. The Mainland actors have a rugged, wholly unglamorous charm that prevents the comedy from feeling too broad or exaggerated to be believable.

There are all sorts of twists and turns and splendid complications that occur throughout Crazy Stone, and Ning Hao's assured directorial style lets you know you're in good hands, despite the initial disorientation. Nearly every action in Crazy Stone creates a comic, wholly unexpected domino effect, and Ning Hao's narrative choices only work to affirm this. For instance, the film will often show an occurrence only to revisit the scene from various points of view. This stylistic quirk never feels repetitive or tired, in large part due to the way Ning Hao stages each scene. The way in which these kinds of moments occur is so surprising, that you're never quite sure at first if you've jumped forward in the narrative or made another lateral move. It's a remarkable filmmaking technique that would probably be annoying if it weren't so well executed.

Crazy Stone is a breezy, energizing film, a low budget crime comedy that makes ample use of its meager resources to turn out something that's better than most mainstream Chinese language films - well, at least those not directed by Johnnie To. Although one's knowledge of the Chongqing dialect might enhance the overall experience, it isn't necessary. Crazy Stone has a distinctive local feel, but its sense of humor is sure to translate to a global audience. If Andy Lau's Focus First Cuts is supposed to be a director's showcase, then it's safe to say that Ning Hao is a prime example of the program's success. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

Availability: DVD (HK)
Region 0 NTSC
Intercontinental Video Limited (IVL)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Chongqing Dialect and Mandarin Dubbed Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras
   Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen