Mark Reviews Movies

Absurd Accident


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Li Yuhe

Cast: Xixu Chen, Ye Gao, Rui Cao, Bo Dong, Suxi Ren, Yunfei Lou, Yizheng Geng, Chunsheng Chen

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:37

Release Date: 5/19/17 (limited); 10/20/17 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 19, 2017

Absurd Accident arrives a couple decades after that influx of Tarantino-inspired movies with time-bending narratives and crime-based plots, with a series of interconnecting characters and stories—the whole thing told with an edge of dark humor. In a way, that lateness serves the film well, because it feels less like part of a trend and more like its own, weird thing.

It's a shaggy dog story of attempted murder, manslaughter, sexual impotence, criminal incompetence, and a body that either keeps coming back to life or seems to appear out of nowhere, depending on one's perspective. It's the debut of writer/director Li Yuhe, who overdoes some of the film's stylistic trappings but clearly possesses a knack for comic timing and revelation.

It's kind of amusing to see a dead body appear in the bed of the pickup truck of a man who's convinced that said body has disappeared without a trace. It's funnier—in a morbid way, of course—to find out that the body wasn't actually just a body when that man thought it was. It's funnier still—again, in a really sort of bad-taste way—to find out how the perceived body finally became just a body, because a couple on their first date got a little too randy and a little too unaware of the gearshift of a car.

This sounds convoluted, and it would sound that way even if I weren't being intentionally vague with the specifics. That's the point of a shaggy dog story. It's simple on the face. It's in the details that we need to get lost in the story.

It is all so simple at first. Baiwan (Xixu Chen) has been having trouble with his wife Lilian (Ye Gao). Either his impotence has made him worried that she's cheating on him, or he's impotent because he's worried that she has turned him into a cuckold. Does it matter? Whichever the relationship between his impotence and his suspicion, Baiwan is certain that corrected his performance issues will clear things up. For that, he seeks out the aid of Dr. Bi (Rui Cao), who sells natural remedies for "medicine" and, mostly, profit. Baiwan is on a regimen of an expensive wine, which Bi insists takes some time to work. In the meantime, Baiwan is just going to have to deal with the digestive effects that come along with it.

To make a long story slightly shorter, Baiwan finally confronts Lilian, who spitefully tells her husband that, yes, she has been having an affair. Whether or not this is true is also irrelevant, because Baiwan is now convinced that he has to avenge his sullied honor. Conveniently, Dr. Bi has connection to the criminal underworld. He knows just the right man for the job: a mysterious assassin who works in the shadows. All Baiwan has to do is drug his wife before she goes to bed and come up with a reasonable alibi (Thankfully, one of his neighbors wants Baiwan's dog to impregnate his own—a phrase the neighbor can't get out without it sounding like he's asking for something unnatural). The hitman will do the dirty work.

There's a lot more to this tale, of course. Some it involves a pair of thieves (played by Yunfei Lui and Yizheng Geng) who are on the run after robbing a jewelry store. The bigger thief has his eye on a ruby ring that he tries—rather clumsily—to hide from his skinnier partner. Some of it involves Nuli (Bo Dong), a loser who spends his days in an internet café playing video games and chatting with women online. Somehow, he's convinced Miss Gu (Suxi Ren) to go on a blind date with him. The "somehow" involves him borrowing his well-to-do friend's car and lying about being the future inheritor of his father's successful business. Of course, there's a cop (played by Chunsheng Chen), who happens to be Baiwan's uncle, and of course, the events of the film take place on the cop's last day before retirement.

The central gag here is one of perspective. It's in how seemingly random events and actions take on a different meaning when we see them from another character's point of view. The bigger thief looks a bit clumsy when he shows up at the diner in Baiwan and Lilian's inn, suddenly appearing on the floor in one wide shot when Baiwan and the skinnier thief get into an argument over the thief's flirtatious way with Lilian. Once we see the scene from the thieves' perspective, we realize that the bigger guy is a bit smarter than he first appears, although perhaps clumsier than we first suspected (Li stages and shoots some of the clumsier setpieces like a silent movie, which is more distracting than clever).

Yes, the murder plot goes wrong, because we're supposed to have at least a little sympathy for Baiwan (He realizes the error of his ways just in the nick of time), but that doesn't mean that there isn't a body (The character who keeps getting punished—having his hair set on fire, being hit in the back of the head, and being crushed by a car—is pretty despicable, and among these characters, that's saying something). The body keeps moving around for reasons that only become clear as we see this interwoven story from every point of view.

That's the twisted fun of the film, which doesn't care about these characters but doesn't have much reason to do so, anyway. It's all about the plot, and Absurd Accident weaves a fiendishly funny one.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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