North American Premiere
90 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles
Directed by: Ning Hao
Starring: Huang Bo, Chao Hong, Cheng Yuanyuan, Lei Jia-yin, Guo Tao, Liu Hua
It’s all about the money, honey: finding it, making it, losing it, spending it, and stealing it. Nowhere is this more true than in China where capitalism has juiced the country like 50,000 volts applied directly to the brain, making everyone more than a little cash-crazy. But if a director wants to talk about China’s crash course in capitalism he’s got to set his film in the past to satisfy state censors, so welcome to the gold fever of Ning Hao’s GUNS N’ROSES (named after his favorite band) set in 1930’s Manchuko, the puppet state in Mongolia established by the occupying Japanese Army. An industrial powerhouse ruled by the last Qing Emperor, Puyi (subject of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor), it was a wild, diverse region full of White Russian exiles, Japanese opportunists, Chinese criminals, collaborating Koreans, and misunderstood Mongols (it’s also the setting for Kim Ji-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, and The Weird).
Lei Jia-yin plays a street hustler who strikes it rich when he’s rounded up and tossed in jail with a revolutionary freedom fighter who has an inside line on an incoming shipment of gold. Lei gets out with plans to cash in on this hot tip, but his cellmate’s comrades are suddenly squeezing him for the info. Lei comes in on their heist (masterminded by a glamorous screen star played by Tao Hong), but then he falls for the innocent daughter of the bank president they’re about to rob, and things get complicated. Plotlines multiply like horny rabbits, Ning Hao’s stable of comedy character actors pop up like wild mushrooms (from Huang Bo to Guo Tao), and everything goes spectacularly, explosively, insanely wrong.
With action by Yang Kil-Young (who did the choreography on Oldboy), GUNS N’ROSES marks Ning Hao’s return to filmmaking after he stalled hard with No Man’s Land. His frenetic and stylish Crazy Racer was one of the most talked-about movies at the 2009 New York Asian Film Festival, but his follow-up film, No Man’s Land, wasn’t approved by the Chinese censors and he lost three years of his career trying to get it out of motion picture purgatory (he ultimately failed, and it remains unseen to this day). All that pent-up energy, anger, and frustration comes exploding out of every frame of GUNS N’ROSES which is his chance to show that he can still thrill audiences with extreme comedy, hilarious action, and an ending that turns the entire film on its head…with a vengeance.
North American Premiere
115 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles
Directed by: Kim Ji-Woon & Yim Pil-Sung
Starring: Ryoo Seung-Beom, Kim Kang-Woo, Song Sae-Byuk
Kim Ji-Woon is one of Korea’s most fascinating directors, and a new movie from him is always an event. Whether it’s the stylized horror of A Tale of Two Sisters, the intense action of A Bittersweet Life, the wild spaghetti western madhouse of The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, or even the dark psychodrama, I Saw the Devil, he has consistently delivered some of the most challenging, gorgeously-shot, innovative genre movies to come out of Korea. Now he turns his big old brain to science fiction with the three-part omnibus film, DOOMSDAY BOOK, which has been in the making since 2006.
Originally planned to be a three-parter directed by Kim Ji-Woon, Yim Pil-Sung (director of Hansel & Gretel and Antarctic Journal), and Han Jae-Rim (The Show Must Go On), production started in 2006, and then fell apart when Han’s film (a retelling of an O. Henry short story) proved to be unworkable. With only two-thirds of the movie completed, it was shelved. Then, after a new influx of cash in 2010, Kim and Yim collaborated on the movie’s third segment, and now their three-parter about the end of the world is ready for the big screen.
Outlining three ways in which the world ends, DOOMSDAY BOOK starts with Yim Pil-Sung’s “A Brave New World,” a rollicking, hilarious short film about rampant pollution that leads to an outbreak of zombie-ism that robs man of even his ability to choose to die. The second short, Kim Ji-Woon’s “The Heavenly Creature” is about a future where robots have become our main source of manual labor. One robot, which resides at a Buddhist temple, achieves enlightenment, and the company that produces robot workers realizes that it’s got a crisis on its hands. The movie wraps up with the two directors collaborating on “Happy Birthday” about a young girl whose wish results in a giant meteor heading straight for the planet Earth. Injecting welcome doses of comedy into three hard science fiction scenarios, this two-fisted dose of apocalypse is the smartest sci fi flick to hit movie screens all summer.