Film Review: No Man’s Land

By Joy Chiang Ling

Chinese film director Ning Hao has been compared to Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie for the prevalence of black comedy and violence in his films. Hao continues his stylistic trend in his latest Chinese Western, No Man’s Land. The film follows the trials and tribulations of a lawyer named Pan Xiao (played by Zheng Xu) after he helps a poacher avoid court punishment. Xiao is harassed by angry truck drivers, scammed by shady gas station workers, and befriended by a pretty woman named Li Yuxin (played by Nan Yu) who was sold into an abusive marriage by her impoverished parents.

No Man’s Land features crisp cinematography and stirring action sequences. Viewers familiar with Quentin Tarantino and similar directors should be pleased by the constant brutality throughout the film, which offers an interesting take on the Western genre.

Despite its high production quality, No Man’s Land leaves little room for viewers to enjoy the story due to its excessive amount of violence and unlikeable characters. Even the protagonist, an anti-hero of sorts, displays unsavory qualities from the very beginning, and does not redeem himself until much later on in the film. The only agreeable character would be Li Yuxin, who, at times, can also be annoying and difficult to watch.

In addition, the overall pace of the film is unnecessarily protracted. I sometimes found myself losing interest after the conclusion of a story arc, knowing that the characters will only be tortured and fighting for survival yet again in the following scene.

No Man’s Land will be featured in the New York Asian Film Festival, which spans from June 27 to July 14, 2014. It will be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

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