Movie review of “Old Stone”: A single act of decency ruins a man’s life in this Chinese movie. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
As a title, “Old Stone” conveys virtually nothing about the Chinese production that bears the name (it’s, in fact, the title character’s nickname translated to English.) In its stead, may I humbly offer, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
The good deed: A cabdriver accidentally runs down a guy on a motorbike on a city street. Neither the cops nor an ambulance show up as the victim writhes and bleeds. Onlookers gather and bray contradictory advice. “Don’t move him!” “Take him to the hospital, it’s not far!” The cabbie, feeling responsible and merciful, acts. He takes the guy to the hospital.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Old Stone,’ with Chen Gang, Nai An. Written and directed by Johnny Ma. 81 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains language, adult situations). In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
Stand back and watch in dismay as the Samaritan’s life proceeds to implode.
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Writer-director Johnny Ma turns the poor soul into a modern-day Job, gradually ground down by trials practically past counting. He’s left on the hook for the victim’s hospital bills because he didn’t follow the cab company’s procedures, which called for him to have reported the accident before transporting the man to the hospital. Caught in the cogs of unfeeling bureaucracies — the police, the insurance industry, the hospital — and castigated by his wife for plunging the family into debt, he becomes desperate. And desperation can drive a man to desperate deeds.
The litany of woes builds inexorably. Star Chen Gang plays the protagonist as the saddest of sad sacks, his eyes filling with hopelessness as his burdens bury him.
Director Ma has made a quietly merciless picture, a horror movie, really, about a decent man, an ordinary man, left alone, bereft, embittered, ruined by his act of decency. One hopes for justice for such a man.
One hopes in vain.