A unique blend of pulp fiction flair and social-realist grit, Diao Yinan’s urban noir took home the Golden Bear for Best Film at Berlin. Opening in 1999, in the frozen industrial north of China’s Heilongjiang province, the story kicks off when severed body parts start showing up in coal plants around the region. Called in to head up the investigation, recently divorced detective Zhang (Liao Fan, who took the Silver Bear for Best Actor) finds a lead, but when an arrest at a hair salon is seriously botched the case goes cold. Fast forward five years later, a dishevelled Zhang has left the force in disgrace and is now working as a security guard, given to drowning his sorrows in drink. When further body parts start to turn up in the coal the eerie similarities of the new case prompt Zhang to start digging again.
“The unkempt, unorthodox detective, the sudden bursts of violence and acrobatic action, and the dark, incongruous humor, all of which are strongly reminiscent of Bong Joon-ho’s work, move the story along at a brisk, captivating pace.” — Giovanni Marchini Camia, Film Comment