Hey folks, Harry here taking a break from covering the Toronto Film Festival to dart down to Boston for a chat with Paul Revere about a Chinese film called THE MISSING GUN! which just sounds wonderful. Can you imagine if in this country... if you owned a gun, that twice a year, you'd be required to go down, fire it at a range, show that the gun was in fine working order and to prove you still had it... and if you didn't... You'd go to prison for 3 years? WOW... I think I'd rather not have a gun... think that's the point in China? Here ya go...
Greetings, Harry and company, Paul Revere again. As you may remember from last year, the Boston Film Festival runs at the same time as the Toronto Fest, and even has some of the same movies. I won't be reporting on quite so many this year, in part because I'm doing my silversmithing out in the suburbs and thus just can't keep the three-movies-a-day schedule I had last year, and in part because there just aren't as many. The program's pretty thin this year - for example, there are only two films scheduled to play Tuesday, and both of those are playing other days, as well.
Anyway, tonight I opted to skip Matchstick Men in favor of something that won't be coming out on thousands of screens for regular price on Friday - a thriller from mainland China called The Missing Gun! (complete with exclamation point).
The story behind this movie is pretty straightforward: Ma Shan, a police officer, wakes up the morning after his sister's wedding to find his sidearm missing, and proceeds to try and hunt it down, without alerting people that he has lost it. This is because, as outlined in the program but not the movie itself, losing a firearm is a serious crime in China, carrying a jail term of up to three years. Ma Shan's quest to find his weapon is complicated by the recent return to town of an ex-lover.
I suppose it doesn't speak well of America that a single missing gun, loaded as it is with three whole bullets, seemed like pretty small potatoes to me. And there's a sort of quaintness to a scene where local crooks are terrified of the idea that there's a loose weapon. However, when writer/director Lu Chuan plays with the idea that without the gun, Ma Shan (who at one point is given a bonus as the province's top policeman) is a small man not given any respect, one missing gun does seem like a big deal, especially if you like (or at least know) the person one of the bullets may hit.
Technically, this is a pretty nice looking film, made for relatively little money in the People's Republic of China. The director uses quick cutting to get Ma Shan's panic across in the first scene, and sound is used fairly well. At only ninety minutes, though, the movie may be too short - there are one or two odd transitions where I felt like a scene was missing (the IMDB lists a runtime of 120 minutes, fully half an hour longer than the version which played at the festival). Also, although the movie is structured like a mystery, the solution isn't really satisfying. Sure, it's possible from what happens on screen, but it's not nearly as interesting as what the red herrings had been pointing to.
Columbia/Tri-Star has the American rights to this movie, but no release date is set. Film enthusiasts might want to give it a look for the way in which it transplants a film noir storyline to rural, contemporary China.