China Film Group’s key film project flops at the Chinese mainland box office

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/26 18:33:39

Promotional material from China Salesman Photo: IC

One of the State-run China Film Group's key film projects announced in 2015, action movie China Salesman has bombed at the box office.

Facing fierce competition from Hollywood blockbusters such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Wonder Woman and Transformers: The Last Knight, Chinese films have been experiencing a tough time over the past month or so. While a few well-reviewed films have made some headway, a majority of Chinese films left theaters without making much of an impact. China Salesman, reviews of which have been polarizing, looks like it will join these latter films.

Premiering in the Chinese mainland on June 16, the film gathered a cast of international stars which includes US boxer Mike Tyson and Norwegian actress Janicke Askevold. While the film's budget has not been made public, its current box-office take of 9.5 million yuan ($1.3 million) over 10 days makes it highly unlikely it will break even.

Based on the true story of employees working for Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies, China Salesman focuses on a Chinese technician trying to develop a communication network in an African country caught up in a civil war, all the while defending against Western competitors.

Anticipation for the film was high.

Promoted as the first Chinese film shot in Africa, the film inspired patriotic feelings in moviegoers with its story of a common Chinese IT worker who outmaneuvers Western giants.

For this reason, China Salesman opened with a 7.2 percent screen share - far lower than that given to Hollywood blockbusters, but still the highest screen share among all domestic films that weekend.

Reviews for the film, however, have been mixed. While some have criticized the story as being nothing more than nonsense, others have praised the quality of the film's action scenes.

Currently, China Salesman has a 4.2/10 from 1,101 reviews on Chinese media review site Douban and a 5.7/10 from 90 reviewers on Chinese film site Mtime.

Pointing out that the film is full of "jumpy plotlines, exaggerated performances and confused logic," filmgoer Yang Yi told the Global Times that it seems China Salesman wanted to "make itself into some kind of Hollywood action blockbuster. Even the lead actor is portrayed with the same individualistic heroism that can be seen in many US films."

Yang said that this exaggerated take on the story detracts from the fact it is supposed to be "based on a true story."

"It is a long and bad film version of a Huawei commercial. The story could have been made into an interesting cult film, yet the decision to film it like a silly anti-Japanese war film turned the film into something hollow and stupid," netizen Grinch wrote on Douban. 

However, there are those who stand by the film.

"Maybe only people working in the IT industry can empathize with the film. It portrays the environment that many workers carrying out IT construction in African countries have to face. Although some people outside the industry may think that they are ridiculous, many of the plots about the business side of things are actually very realistic," netizen Nirsir wrote on Mtime, giving the film an 8.0/10.  

A fan of action films, moviegoer Zou Xiang praised the realistic nature of the film's action scenes. He pointed out that while many films depict a character speaking a few parting words before they die, China Salesman is very direct when it comes to portraying the realities of violence. "When a bullet hits a person in the film, that person dies. That's what an action scene should be."

At a press conference for China Salesman held earlier this month, the film's director Tan Bing said that he had long dreamed of making a film that represents China "because what Chinese films lack today are Chinese images that can receive recognition from both home and abroad. Therefore, the salesman in the film represents not only himself, but also the nation that stands behind him." 

After the mixed reviews began hitting the Internet, Tan posted on Sina Weibo that he is confident that the quality of the film would speak for itself.


Newspaper headline: Death of a 'China Salesman’


Posted in: FILM

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