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Chongqing Hot Pot
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Chongqing Hot Pot

Yu Entai, Aloys Chen, Bai Baihe and Qin Hao have some Chongqing Hot Pot.

Chinese: 鬼打鬼  
Year: 2016  
Director: Yang Qing

Chen Kuo-Fu

Writer: Yang Qing
Cast: Aloys Chen, Bai Baihe, Qin Hao, Yu Entai
The Skinny: Entertaining genre mix from Yang Qing, writer-director of the entertaining 2009 genre mix One Night in Supermarket. Clever storytelling, smart details and a lack of pretension make up for relatively banal themes and emotions. The most ridiculous thing about Chongqing Hot Pot may be the idea that a man as handsome as Aloys Chen would run a hot pot restaurant.
by Kozo:

Writer-director Yang Qing confirms his talent for clever genre filmmaking with his enjoyable sophomore effort Chongqing Hot Pot, the long-awaited follow-up to his debut feature One Night in Supermarket (2009). This twisty crime comedy opens with a deadly serious set piece, involving four gun-toting robbers invading a bank while wearing masks representing the Monkey King and his companions from Journey to the West. When the cops discover their getaway vehicle and driver, the plan goes awry. The robbers shut themselves in the bank and take the employees hostage, and begin searching for another way out. Then one robber discovers a curious hole in the floor of the vault, after which the camera travels through the hole to reveal where it leads and how it got there.

Flash back to an earlier time and we're introduced to the Cave Hot Pot restaurant, a spicy hot pot joint that operates in a former bomb shelter. Business is bad for the owners – childhood friends Liu Bo (Aloys Chen), Xu Dong (Qin Hao) and Four Eyes (Yu Entai) – and they're looking to sell. A buyer is interested but expects a bigger restaurant, so the three dig further into the cave to expand the space – only they end up creating a hole in the neighbouring bank's vault floor. The money is tantalizing to Liu Bo, who's deep in gambling debt, but the friends agree to leave the money where it is and repair the hole. But they need an inside man for the job and find one in the form of a woman: former classmate and bank employee Yu Xiaohui (Bai Baihe).

After a fashion, Xiaohui agrees to help and even comes up with a plan, but the foursome's journey is a turbulent one – and that’s even before the bank robbers burst upon the scene. The story features more than criminal activity; Yang Qing shows an affinity for romance tropes that would fit a youth film rather than a twisty thriller. Xiaohui liked Liu Bo back in school and, based on Liu Bo’s awkward shiftiness, he likely cared for her too. There are also subplots involving the friends’ fracturing bond, Liu Bo’s spiralling debts and Xiaohui’s work troubles – that’s a lot to take in, but Yang does a fine job of sketching his situations, and somehow makes everything connect. The ease with which the film juggles its characters and plot twists offsets some of the narrative banality, and by the time every last detail comes together for the bank robbery, and subsequent skirmish in the cave restaurant, Chongqing Hot Pot has readily entertained.

Aiding Chongqing Hot Pot are its slick production values and action, which has more in common with stabby Korean thrillers than China or Hong Kong genre films. The violence does stretch a bit long at the climax – perhaps enough to outstay its welcome – but it also helps add some grit and edge to what’s essentially a light story about former school classmates who rediscover or reaffirm their friendship. Acting is mostly agreeable, with Aloys Chen's overacting balanced nicely by Bai Baihe's wallflower-ish charms, Qin Hao's charisma and Yu Entai's likeable nerdiness. The climax dabbles in a bit of darkness but Yang Qing steers clear of commentary or consequences, and concentrates more on his ironic humor, young love tropes and clever plot twists. While not a game-changer, Chongqing Hot Pot is a welcome piñata of commercial and genre film elements that never pretends to be more than it is: a creative and crowd-pleasing ninety-four minutes. (Kozo, 8/2016)


• This review was originally published in April 2016 in the Far East Film Festival catalog for the 18th Udine Far East Film Festival. Reprinted with permission.

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital EX
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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