Movie Review: The Wasted Times (Cmovie, 2016)

One of my favorite Chinese movies, The Wasted Times, is now on Viki so I had to review it. I watched this last year during a trip to China and was really drawn in to the story as well as the incredible cinematography so I was eager to watch it again. It’s a dark drama about a Chinese mob boss and a Japanese national, which starts just before the Japanese invasion of Shanghai through to the end of the Sino-Japanese War, and stars Ge You (To Live) and Tadanobu Asano (Thor: Ragnarok).

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The movie starts in 1937 just before the Japanese invade Shanghai. Mr Lu (Ge) is a mobster in Shanghai whose friend and brother-in-law is a Japanese business man, Watabe (Asano), a self-proclaimed Shanghainese. When Mr. Lu mentions having a meeting with the Japanese, Watabe warns him that they only want war and they aren’t to be trusted.

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The story of these two men starts to unfold from there as the film jumps back and forth between 1934 and 1945, giving the viewer more backstory on each of the men, as well as about the other people they interact with, to see how the events that come, triggered by the invasion, affect them and all around them. This isn’t a war movie, but rather a gangster movie where one of the gangs are the Japanese military and loyalties may be for money rather than country.

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Zhang Zi Yi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) also stars in this move as Xiao Lu, an aspiring actress and the unfaithful wife of Lu’s boss. When Watabe is tasked by Mr. Lu with sending her out of town with her latest lover, he ends up kidnapping her to be his sex slave and locks her up in his basement instead.

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Du Chun (The Faces of My Gene), is fantastic in his supporting role as a mysterious, unnamed enforcer for Mr. Lu. With his cool and knowing demeanor, you know that even a simple request for dim sum means someone is about to breath their last. Two other actors who stood out in this film, despite smaller parts, were Yan Ni (My Own Swordsman) as Mr. Lu’s housekeeper, Mama Wang, who also assists from time to time with his business, and Du Jiang (Operation Red Sea) as a young enforcer, newly arrived to the city and teased for still being a virgin until he suddenly finds himself caught in the middle of a gang war.

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The movie’s film style feels like a mix between Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson (think Pulp Fiction meets The Grand Budapest Hotel sans the comedy or bright colors). The static and tracking wide and medium shots show off the geometric and minimalist set design that catches the eye without distracting from the story. Later, as the body count grows, a generous amount of blood and bodies fills those spaces, their clutter contrasting with the clean lines of those beautiful, artistic backgrounds. While most gangster action movies feel so rushed, this one feels deceptively calm and slow as you get sucked into the story of war and friends becoming enemies until you get to the sunny, but dark ending.

Be warned that this is not a feel-good movie. It’s a dark story of murder, betrayal and revenge with an ending that has a bit of a gut punch. But the story is so compelling and well crafted, and it’s a beautiful piece of film art.

  1. 2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Wasted Times (Cmovie, 2016)

    Who did the amazing camera work?

    • 2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Wasted Times (Cmovie, 2016)

      Du Jie who also worked on the Detective Chinatown movies.

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