2019/06/08

Execrable: Caught in the Web

Caught in the Web (2012)
Directed by Kaige Chen
Written by Kaige Chen, Danian Tang
Produced by Chen Hong, Huayi Cao, Ziwen Wang, Song Wei
Starring Yuanyuan Gao, Chen Yao, Mark Chao, Xueqi Wang, Hong Chen, Luodan Wang, Ran Chen, Yi Zhang, David Peck, Qing Huo, Ningyu Zhao
Obloquy's inescapable in a corrupt and insular society, as an aggrieved secretary (Gao) in Hangzhou learns after video of her cool discommodity toward an old man on an omnibus goes viral. Neither are her employer (Wang), the opportunistic journalist (Yao) who publicizes the video, her intern (Wang) who shot it, nor their respective friends, families or colleagues immune from the repercussions of this infamy. That terrific scenario and the cogent social commentary it examples are ruined by the involutions of numerous, often incredible underplots to pad yet another of Chen's disappointing features with approximately forty minutes. He's still skilled as an actor's director; his players' performances are uniformly fine, despite his ludicrous story and maddeningly excessive editing whereby shots are cut from one vocalized clause to the next, appealing with apparent success to young audiences of a mean attention span that's woefully meager. This isn't the Chen who crafted brilliant, beautiful period pictures in the vanguard of the Fifth Generation during the '80s and '90s, but he who's since shot rancid melodramas such as Killing Me Softly and The Promise, and filed with stupidly barratrous intent a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against a frivolously comedic short lampooning the latter. Devoted fans may be pleased to observe his wife and co-producer Hong as the disgruntled spouse of longtime collaborator Xueqi Wang, both of whom enact a needlessly nugatory excursus with a dignified maturity exceeding the film's. Yao supplies this flick's most apropos representation as its sleazily unscrupulous program director, a role for which the perennially celebrated and unpleasant leading lady's uniquely suited. Chen's early work is echoed by a conclusion of elegiac elegance, which is sadly incongruous with the hour and fifty minutes precedent.

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