Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Wild Goose Lake Review: A Gritty, Stylish Chinese Crime Drama

Release date: March 20, 2020 (Blu Ray Release July 21, 2020)
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Ge Hu, Lun-Mei Kwei, Fan Liao 

Written and directed by award winning filmmaker Yi'nan Diao, The Wild Goose Lake follows gangster Zenong Zhou (Ge Hu), who is fleeing from the law.  During his time evading authority, he crosses paths with an innocent-looking woman named Aiai Liu (Lun-Mei Kwei). Unbeknownst to Zhou, she holds a significant secret. Zhou must then confront the limits of what he is willing to sacrifice both for this stranger and for the family he left behind. 

The Wild Goose Lake is oozing with beautiful scenes and gritty style.  Yi'nan Diao has a great eye for the camera and makes even mundane looking urban scenes pop off the screen.  Scenes that would just look like stock footage in other movies are dripping with color and lighting, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtley.  But no matter how you look at it you will be impressed with his camera work.  Even scenes such as a field, an urban block, or a night in the city draw your eye.  And along with this, The Wild Goose Lake has some really amazing weather scenes, especially the scenes with the rain.  The story of The Wild Goose Lake is a slow burning crime noir film.  The movie has a few main characters and a cast of others that come in and out of the film.  Ge Hu as Zhou is a fantastic choice.  Zhou goes through so much in this film and Hu's depiction lets you feel the emotional and physical weight this has on him.  You see the pain that he experiences on his face, and the weariness of this long hunt.  Kwei is less pronounced as Liu, but when called upon she shows her acting ability in some brutal, emotional scenes.  

The Wild Goose Lake is less about the mystery of what Zhou did or of a Western-style detective movie.  Rather, this film is about one man's attempt to evade the law, while slowly filling in the audience in with what happened to get him there.  The movie proceeds at a very slow pace, and stays mostly in an urban environment.  But this slow pace lets you savor the wonderful shots and intense situations that the characters find themselves in.  However, despite the beautiful camera work and interesting story, the pace of The Wild Goose Lake might turn some people off.  It is a slow burning movie that takes its time to develop, but this lack of action does make the story drag at times.  But when the story picks up, it can pick up.  There is intrigue, double-crossing, mixed intentions; everything you need to keep the audience guessing.  And although they aren't central to the story, the few fight scenes that the film has are well done and exciting to watch.  The Wild Goose Lake is also a brutal movie, and this brutality can manifest randomly.  There is a scene early on that just looks out of place because of how quickly and randomly it appears to happen.  And there is a raw, violent scene towards the end that is brutal, but also seems out of place.  I questioned why these scenes were included, but they don't detract from the overall movie.  

The Wild Goose Lake is a gritty, stylish Chinese crime drama with some beautiful cinematography, strong characters, and a slow burning story.  It won't be for everyone because of this, but there is plenty to admire about this film.

Watch it.
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