This is a CIFF Capsule Review, Expect a Full Length Version at its Domestic Release.
The neo-noir is a genre unique to film today (if it indeed a genre) in that it allows for constant reinvention. Black Coal Thin Ice aims to take the classic tropes we all know: a protagonist lost from grace and in need of redemption, a femme fatale, and a slippery case involving murder, and remix them with the distinct qualities of asian cinema. The result is interesting if not invigorating, and Black Coal is nothing if not unpalatable. Moments of genuine tension and beauty—and the film does have its fair share—are juxtaposed with what seem like an endless number of scenes tediously following people walk from place to place. It’s a peculiar rhythm that keeps the audience off-kilter, but tolerance for the film’s indulgences may wear thin. I largely liked what the film spoke to, but many will not. Fan Liao plays a (former) detective investigating a murder where body parts ominously appeared at several coal mining plants, and his distant, aloof performance has just enough nuance to hold our attention. It’s a shame the rest of the film barely could.
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