The Big Lie Bang
China, 2016, colour, 2.35:1, 87 mins.
Director: Hou Liang 侯亮.
Okay comedy of misunderstandings would have benefited from a starrier cast and a script rewrite.
Kunming city, Yunnan province, southern China, 1 Nov 2014. Qin Wei (Sun Jian), head of advertising agency One Vision, and his fiancee Li Qing (Bai Bing), a police detective, are to register their marriage on 2 Nov. Meanwhile, Qin Wei, who was out on the town until the early hours of the morning, swears to her that it was on business with his friend Shitou, as he was working on a scheme that could bring in RMB200,000 and pay for a lavish wedding. Li Qing tells Qin Wei she’s not really interested in money, rather that he will never lie to her. That morning Li Qing is called out on a case that happens to be the break-in of Shitou’s home and his sudden disapperance. For procedural reasons, she’s taken off the case. Questioned by the police, Qin Wei claims he was with Shitou until 23:00, but then admits he was drunk with a business client, Zhang Fushun (Chang Yuan). However, Zhang Fushun is hiding out from loan shark Gao Kai (Zhang Songwen) – due to a bad investment of RMB3 million recommended by Ma Ke, a friend of Qin Wei – so he refuses to talk to the police to back up Qin Wei’s story. Qin Wei escapes from police custody to track down Zhang Fushun, but the latter insists of being taken to meet Ma Ke before he helps Qin Wei get off the hook with the police. Qin Wei eventually agrees, and takes Zhang Fushun to the wealthy new enclave of Baihuayuan Residential District, where he says Ma Ke lives. In fact, Qin Wei goes to see Chen Na (Pan Shuangshuang), a old college girlfriend who can vouch for his movements the night before. But she’s now married to rich businessman/gangster Zhao Guangming (Ji Jie), who thinks Qin Wei and his wife are still having an affaire. Qin Wei makes a run for it, followed by Zhang Fushun. Despite being taken off the Shitou case, Li Qing is also on her way, to find out if Qin Wei was lying to her or not.
Hou Liang 侯亮, a young Mainland film-maker in his mid-30s who made the likeable costume detective comedy Deadly Will 囧探佳人 (2011) and rom-com Love in the Office 一路向前 (2015, from his own novel), comes up with an okay time-passer in The Big Lie Bang 谎言大爆炸, a one-thing-leads-to-another romp that’s cleanly shot and solidly made but would have been better with a higher profile cast and a further re-write or two. Though full of flavorsome character actors, it’s still half a notch down on the previous two movies, weakened by a so-so script and a colourless lead performance from Sun Jian 孙坚, who doesn’t project a strong enough screen presence to anchor this type of comedy.
Sun, still best known for his TV work, is OK in the very early scenes, as the mildly duplicitous fiance of a trusting young policewoman (Bai Bing 白冰) who finds himself more and more entangled in a white lie about where he was the previous evening. However, as events escalate beyond anyone’s control, Sun, like his character, doesn’t fill the screen and drive the picture, which runs away with itself in a series of cameos and colourful supports. And though the film is always easy on the eye – with locations in Kunming, Dali and nearby Erhai lake giving it a fresh look, especially in the clean widescreen photography by Hong Kong d.p. Kuang Tinghe 邝庭和 (Love in the Office) – the script by Zhang Guanghui 张光辉 just doesn’t have quite enough twists or clever turns to really engage the viewer beyond a casual level.
As the detective wife of Sun’s character, Bai (Mr. & Mrs. Single 隐婚男女, 2011; CZ12 十二生肖, 2012; Kung Fu Jungle 一个人的武林, 2014) is never less than solid but stuck, as so often, in a restricted role, here largely calling on her to look upright or suspicious. The squishy-faced Chang Yuan 常远 (who was also in Love in the Office) motors many scenes as the best friend who’s on the run from loan sharks, while Yi-minority actor/presenter Ji Jie 吉杰 has some fun as an over-the-top businessman/gangster who thinks he’s being cuckolded. Ditto Zhang Songwen 张颂文 (also in Love) as the loan-shark leader. In a fairly sizeable role as the main character’s ex, model-actress Pan Shuangshuang 潘霜霜 gives hints she’s capable of more than just big-breasted cheesecake.
The film was shot in Aug 2014 but wasn’t released until almost two years later, when it sank without trace, grossing less than RMB1 million. The Chinese title refers to how a lie can explode on you.
Presented by Yunnan Nationalities Film Studio (CN), Yunnan Zhongtai Cultural Development (CN).
Script: Zhang Guanghui. Photography: Kuang Tinghe. Editing: Du Yuan. Music: Huang Xiaoqiu. Art direction: Zheng Aiyun. Costumes: Xia Xiaojuan. Sound: Duan Haiying, Jia Xiaoyan, Wu Weiji. Action: Luo Lixian [Bruce Law], Luo Yimin [Norman Law]. Martial arts: Qiu Chengdui. Visual effects: Zheng Kaiquan (Filmman Studio). Executive direction: Xiaoye.
Cast: Sun Jian (Qin Wei), Bai Bing (Li Qing), Chang Yuan (Zhang Fushun), Pan Shuangshuang (Chen Na), Ji Jie (Zhao Guangming), Zhang Songwen (Gao Kai), Chen Qiushi (Yanjing/Glasses, Gao Kai’s sidekick), Li Chengye (Lv Mao/Green Hair, Gao Kai’s sidekick), Tian Yuan (Fang), He Wenhui (effete geek), He Jie (taxi driver), Wang Junheng (Shitou), Ding Yi (traffic policeman), Chen Danting (secretary), Jiang Fangting (Ma Ke’s girlfriend), Han Yunyun (female shop-owner), Fu Xiaohu (Huang Qiang, motorcycle driver).
Release: China, 13 May 2016.