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Saving Mr. Wu - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Jiejiu Wu Xiansheng

China 2015

Thriller, Drama

Ding Sheng

Andy Lau
Wang Qianyuan
Liu Ye
Wu Ruofu
Cai Lu
Lam Suet
Li Meng
Zhao Xiaorui
Yu Ailei
Lu Peng

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Saving Mr. Wu

Saving Mr. Wu - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Zhang (Wang Qianyuan) and his gangster buddies kidnap the actor Wu (Andy Lau), although this happens to be just a coincidence. They didn't actually target their victim. Zhang makes money with kidnappings for quite a few years already. That's also why the police is hot on his trails these days. After the kidnapping of Wu lead investigators Xing Feng (Liu Ye) and Cao Gang (Wu Ruofu) pull out all the stops to find the gangsters' hideout. At the same time Zhang wants to get his hands on Wu's money. Since Zhang has kidnapped the man Xiao Dou (Cai Lu) before Wu, but Xiao can't pay, he wants to kill the man. However, Wu promises to pay for him as well. The actor gets in touch with his friend Su (Lam Suet) so that Su can get his money from the bank for him. But Su informs the police and by also making use of the other clues Xing and Cao managed to collect they eventually catch Zhang. Yet, they still don't know where Zhang's buddies and the kidnap victims are. Zhang is buying time and if he shouldn't call his buddies until nine o'clock the victims will be executed...

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Saving Mr. Wu - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Director Ding Sheng more and more solidifies his position as a blockbuster guarantor. After his surely promising, but ultimately not entirely convincing Jackie Chan vehicles "Little Big Soldier" and "Police Story 2013" Ding now tries his hand at an action drama that is based on true events. The fast editing and a story that constantly seems to be moving forward may make this film a solid action thriller, but it's the unexpectedly sound acting achievements and particularly the work done on a meta level that make "Saving Mr. Wu" a winner. To see Andy Lau partly in the role of Andy Lau and casting the real kidnap victim from 2004 in a supporting role simply gives the thriller that certain wow effect.

Saving Mr. Wu - Film Screenshot 5

Maybe some people will get worked up now as I have already forestalled the fact that Wu Ruofu apparently has survived the kidnapping, how could he otherwise be cast in the movie adaption of his own kidnapping? But to be honest, there is never any doubt about him surviving despite the suspense that is built up. So let's get to the movie's highlight right away. Back then, Wu Ruofu wasn't nearly as famous as Andy Lau is today and so it might have been a good decision to make the picture the kidnapping of Andy Lau as well. "Saving Mr. Wu" thus often crosses over to a meta level. There is talk about Wu just being an ok actor, others on the other hand think that he is fantastic and then there are also those who just didn't get a ticket for his last concert. Moreover, Wu doesn't seem to have aged anymore for the last ten years. Does this sound familiar?

Saving Mr. Wu - Film Screenshot 6

Andy Lau ("Blind Detective", "A Simple Life") succeeds in delivering his best performance since quite a while back. And that's even the more noteworthy since he actually easily could have run the risk of slipping off to an unintentionally funny level with all the meta work involved. But that's not the case at all. In fact, there are a few scenes, for example Wu being compared to Chow Yun-Fat on more than one occasion, which brighten up an otherwise very dark tone. Moreover, Lau needs to hide complex emotions behind a mask of bravery in order not to get down his fellow kidnap victim. What's especially appealing, though, is the chemistry between Lau and Wang Qianyuan ("Brotherhood of Blades"), who embodies the villain. It's a back and forth with the dialogues and the kidnapper turns out to be an able actor as well, in order to get as much money as possible out of the kidnapping.

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Wang's acting is particularly remarkable because he also adds a bit of a human side to his list of character traits as the ruthless kidnapper and killer. There aren't many actors you would buy from those opposing sides of one and the same individual. Liu Ye ("The Last Supper") and Wu Ruofu only deliver solid performances, though, whereas Wu deserves some credit for the fact alone that he once again faces this trauma and maybe even experiences some sort of catharsis while hunting down his own kidnappers as a policeman. Yes, the meta club strikes again with full force! Apart from that "Saving Mr. Wu" proves to be a rock solid thriller. The high pacing, which never really shifts down a gear since the police is constantly uncovering new clues, needs to be positively pointed out as well. But: The Chinese police is working almost too perfectly for it to be believable.

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If you are looking at the story from an objective angle it becomes obvious that there have been utilized a few tricks when it comes to editing and narration in order to keep the suspense level high. Thus, there is a permant shift back and forth between time levels to make the story look more complex than it is, and apart from that there are also a few means pulled out of the moviemaker's hat to add some action scenes to the story, even though there actually doesn't seem to be any place for them in the movie. Consequently, we get to see on more than one occasion how the protagonists imagine what kind of fatal consequences certain decisions could have. Aside from such clumsy attempts to veer away from the original story in the direction of action cinema, the thriller manages, next to the aforementioned positive aspects, to deliver some drama that isn't contrived and scores with some strong moments. "Saving Mr. Wu" is well done (meta) cinema.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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