New film focuses on former gangster’s attempts to bring moral code to indifferent society

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-27 19:23:01

A man is his 50s is still full of ambition and energy, famous Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang believes.

The 57-year-old has a number of works under his belt for which he has won the best director accolade at several Chinese film awards.

He recently demonstrated his youthful vigor by appearing before the camera in the titular role of new movie Mr. Six, directed by Guan Hu.

The role earned him the Best Actor at the Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei.

The film was released on the Chinese mainland on December 24 and garnered a box office of 59 million yuan ($9.11 million) in a single day, which was considered disappointing against the backdrop of China's booming film market.

Yet, Feng's name will undoubtedly draw a large number of people to the cinema in the upcoming days.

The 137-minute film, although verbose, provides a handful of moving moments, with a crescendo of pain at the end.

Famous Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang as Mr. Six in the film

An outdated Beijinger

Like Feng, Mr. Six is a Beijinger in his 50s. He is a former gangster who now runs a small grocery store in a lane house, but cares little about his own business.

Instead, he is more obsessed with other people's lives. He loves to solve other people's problems in return for their respect. In contrast to an indifferent society, he still believes in brotherhood and fraternity.

Mr. Six is such a seemingly respectable person that even policemen heed his principles, and he has a reputation that has won him many admirers.

However, his son Xiaobo (Li Yifeng) is unimpressed by his father's reputation, to the point that he runs away from home to escape the legacy.

The major plot line begins when Xiaobo is beaten up by Xiaofei (Wu Yifan), the son of a provincial official who believes Xiaobo is having an affair with his girlfriend.

In retaliation, Xiaobo scratches Xiaofei's Ferrari. Xiaofei then puts Xiaobo under house arrest. Mr. Six comes to solve the problem, but things don't go smoothly, and new problems arise.

In the end, Mr. Six and Xiaofei choose to settle the matter through a gang battle.

Feng Xiaogang does an excellent job delivering the title role through his eloquent Beijing dialect and an exact grasp of Mr. Six's complicated emotions.

Meanwhile, actress Xu Qing, who plays Mr. Six's lover Chatterbox, and a group of veteran actors who play Mr. Six's friends, all give great performances.

However, both Li Yifeng and Wu Yifan - part of a group of young handsome actors often referred to as "little fresh meat" in Chinese media - serve to pull audiences out of the story with their either rigid or exaggerated acting and poor articulation of lines.

The film also features some cameos by big names such as Jiang Shan and Tao Zeru that may also distract viewers from the film's story.

Woeful plot

The role of Mr. Six is very well put together, partly because of Feng's excellent acting, and partly due to director and co-scriptwriter Guan Hu, who has spent much effort in creating the character.

Mr. Six's character is brought out through a number of minor stories. While these help paint a broad picture of a society infested with money-oriented, self-centered, indifferent people, they also drag on the overall narrative pace of the film.

Mr. Six speaks to a nostalgia for a previous society. It's interesting to note that a number of Chinese directors have lamented the disappearance of swordsmen, heroes and traditional ethics in works that came out this year.

The Assassin by Hou Hsiao-hsien offered up a story of how a powerful swordswoman retreated into an everyday life; The Master by Xu Haofeng also meditated on the fall of heroes; and now Mr. Six examines a hero in contemporary society who harks back to a gone era.

A poster for the film Photos: CFP

Everyone's a critic

GT: How do you evaluate the cinematography?

Kevin Xie, student

"It's very good. I love the scene of Mr. Six standing alone on the icy lake, which makes him look like a lonely planet in a vast universe. It's sad but beautiful."

GT: How much do you like the story of Mr. Six?

Zhang Zhe, magazine editor

"I think there are many problems with the story line of Mr. Six. For example, why Xiaofei didn't break up with his girlfriend after he thought she cheated on him, and why Xiaofei's uncle was so brutal and stupid to unveil their weakness. And all this makes the climax for the character of Mr. Six a bit less convincing."

GT: What do you think about the performance of the so-called young heartthrobs?

Wang Weiwei, community service

"It's almost terrible. Wu Yifan still looks so much like an idol in his role, his movements seem like preening, which is hilarious. Compared with Feng Xiaogang and other veteran actors, these young heartthrobs need a lot of improvement in acting and articulation."

Newspaper headline: Mr. Six

Posted in: Film, Metro Shanghai, Culture

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