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August 01, 2016

Saving Mr. Wu

saving mr wu.jpg

Jie jiu Wu xian sheng
Ding Sheng - 2015
Well Go USA Entertainment BD Region A

I wish there was more information available on actor Wu Ruofu, the subject of Saving Mr. Wu. Aside from the vague description of Wu being a popular television actor in China, the only films I've seen listed for Wu are The Big Parade (1986) by Chen Kaige, and this film where Wu plays a senior police officer. There's a moment when the film's Wu, played by Andy Lau, is trying to buck up the spirits of the man who was kidnapped the day before by the same gang. There's a reference to God of Gamblers, but that was a film with Lau in the cast.

The actual kidnapping of Wu Ruofu took place in February 2004. As it turned out, Wu was kidnapped by chance, simply because he was seen standing outside a karaoke bar, near his pricy car, and looked to be someone who could bring in a significant ransom. The identity of Wu was only discovered later by the kidnappers. It is possible that Wu's celebrity may have helped save his life.

The film takes place during a period of about twenty hours, from One AM, when Wu is grabbed by a trio posing as cops investigating a hit-and-run accident supposedly involving Wu's car, ending about Nine PM, when the cops rescue Wu. The narrative is fractured with flashbacks of the kidnappers prior activities. Most of the scenes include a superimposed title with the time. Similar titles are used to introduce the main characters.

Ding Sheng wrote, directed and edited the film. As the outcome is already known, there isn't much suspense. What does keep the film going are the police procedural aspects, with the Beijing cops figuring out fairly quickly the identity of the lead kidnapper. There is also watching Andy Lau as Wu negotiate with his kidnappers, saving the life of his fellow abductee by offering to pay his ransom, trying to find ways of reasoning with some unreasonable men. Ding Sheng gives the film some documentary flavor with hand-held camera work, without overdoing the shaky-cam.

This is something of a change for Lau who is usually seen as a man of action. For most of Saving Mr. Wu, he is chained to a chair next to Cai Lu, his fellow victim. Most of Lau's acting is through his voice, small hand gestures, and nodding his head in the direction of Cai. Wang Qianyuan plays Zhang, the lead kidnapper, a real-life counterpart to the cheerful, psychopathic thug of so many crime films. Favorite supporting player, Lam Suet, appears as Wu's trusted friend, sent to deliver the ransom. The film ends with some documentary footage of the rescue of Wu, intercut with Andy Lau singing the theme song, first heard sung faintly by Lau and Cai when their respective characters are facing certain death.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 1, 2016 10:32 AM