Lao shi   2016   China, Canada Old Stone
Old Stone Image Cover
Additional Images
Director:Johnny Ma
Studio:Maktub Films
Writer:Johnny Ma
IMDb Rating:7.1 (11 votes)
Awards:5 wins & 6 nominations
Duration:80 min
Johnny Ma  ...  (Director)
Johnny Ma  ...  (Writer)
Nai An  ...  Mao Mao
Gang Chen  ...  Lao Shi
Xue'er Luo  ...  Xue'er
Hongwei Wang  ...  Captain
Zebin Zhang  ...  Li Jiang
Lee Sanders  ...  Composer
Ming-Kai Leung  ...  Cinematographer
Daniel Garcia  ...  Editor
Mike Long  ...  Editor
Comments: Where to begin with this little masterpiece? It's a bleak bleak indie film that somehow escaped the censors in the tradition of Black Coal, Thin Ice and The Looming Storm. If you liked those, get your butt on this one. Also, I happened to notice that one of the actresses/executive producers in/of this film, Nai An, "Founded with Ye Lou the film company Dream Factory". There is a little Ye Lou vibe to it, but mostly I just noticed the grainy look to the film that often shows up in Ye Lou films. It seems intentional because it's not pervasive and seems more prominent during well-lit outdoor scenes. Odd.

Moving on. Remember two things: The best films from China are films about China; Endings are the hardest part.

The synopsis at letterboxd is off. It has at least one fact wrong and synopisizes it out of order and importance, but does share a few details of the film.

Remember that story from China some years ago about a truck driver who ran over a little baby while a bunch of people stood watching and did nothing ... and maybe the truck driver backed up and ran over it again (to make sure he killed it)? Old Stone starts off by recounting that story playing on a radio or TV station, and the film takes its inspiration from it.

Lao Shi is a taxi driver. One day, while driving, a drunken fare pulls on his arm and causes him to swerve into a guy on a scooter. Lao Shi calls the cops and an ambulance. When neither shows up after a period of time he decides to drive the victim to the hospital. This goes against Chinese "procedure", even though the victim would likely have died if he didn't get immediate medical attention. Oops! The insurance company won't cover it without a police report made at the scene before the victim is moved anywhere because -- how do they know the victim's injuries weren't sustained in the transportation to the hospital?

The victim ends up in a coma for months and the taxi driver is responsible for the medical bills. Then there is more story and more plot.

This is a smaller film than Black Coal, Thin Ice or The Looming Storm, but it's right up that alley. It succeeds on the amazing thespianship of Gang Chen as Lao Shi. I've never seen the guy before, but he pulls off the kind of perfect non-acting performance that I enjoy--like he's not acting in a film but simply caught on camera. Bravo!

I've read a few people rolled their eyes at the ending. I thought it was poetry. There are striking similarities, almost plagiaristic, to the ending of The Looming Storm, and then something else happens which is what may have rolled some eyes. I loved it.

There isn't a wasted frame in this film. I couldn't find anything wrong with it.

Summary: A man falls down the stairs, but instead of helping him, the bystanders just take photos with their phones. Lao Shi is a taxi driver and he’s fighting for justice in the darkest recesses of Chinese society. The man who pushed him got into his taxi drunk not so very long ago, grabbed the steering wheel and caused an accident. The victim of the crash has been in a coma ever since, and because his family is destitute, Lao Shi is paying the hospital bills. The insurance company is refusing to cover the costs because the taxi driver left the scene of the accident with the injured man because no help was in sight. Now Lao Shi needs the testimony of his passenger, who angrily refuses to cooperate.

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