The Missing Gun!

(Lu Chuan, China, 2002)


Among the crucial texts of contemporary art criticism is the provocatively titled "Bad Aboriginal Art" by Eric Michaels. In it, Michaels attacks the setting up of certain areas of cultural production in such a sacrosanct and protected way that many people no longer feel willing or able to make value judgments about it. Yet, if we cannot distinguish between good and bad examples of an art form (Michaels argues), then it is not worthy of the name of art.

Asian cinema has become, in some quarters, another protected enclave. But if anyone needs convincing that there is such a thing as bad Asian cinema, The Missing Gun! may serve a purpose.

The Missing Gun! is a frantically exaggerated comedy. Ma Shan (Jiang Wen) loses his gun at a party. Like in certain American teen movies, this leads him into a frantic exploration of the night before which he can no longer remember. The search excavates a troublesome ex-girlfriend, Li Xiaomeng (Ning Jing), as well as various suppressed layers of society in this southwestern Chinese village.

Debuting director Lu Chuan gives this pale story neither the vigour of popular entertainment nor the intelligence of art. The uneasy mixture of slapstick and baroque effects may have been intended as a homage to Scorsese's After Hours (1985), but it ends up defeating itself long before the absurd ending.

One is left, alas, merely pondering the effects of Columbia Pictures' production slate in Asia.

© Adrian Martin October 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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