'Thieves' pockets huge return
Without too much fanfare, A World Without Thieves, Feng Xiaogang's latest thrust into the holiday film season, easily pocketed 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) on its opening weekend and is poised to become this year's box-office runner-up, right after House of Flying Daggers.
For the past few years, almost single-handedly, Feng created -- or imported -- the tradition of holiday blockbusters for the New Year's season. It has become almost as reliable as Auld Lang Syne that a Feng Xiaogang comedy, which usually touches some national nerve in China, will ring out the old and ring in the new.
Last year's Cellphone brought to the forefront of the national psyche the brewing phenomenon of cheating spouses and all the gimmicky applications of Chinese people's favourite form of communications.
A World Without Thieves is about a pair of pickpockets who are moved by a Forrest Gump-like potential victim and decide to give up their profession to help him. It at least alerts the public to the common practices of stealing, says Fu Zuoxin, a Beijing-based security expert who has studied more than 100 thieves.
The movie, starring Andy Lau from Hong Kong and Rene Liu from Taiwan, is making headway in southern China where Feng's old northern-dialect-heavy movies used to have a hard time.
The Cantonese version released in Hong Kong was "translated" by a comics writer attuned to current trends and some of the mainland actors were dubbed by top talent from Hong Kong's film industry.
Earlier, Feng expressed his intentions of broadening his audience appeal beyond his hometown of Beijing.
"Feng Xiaogang is a very smart filmmaker. He knows how to fuse various elements and play up each of them to the full, yet without upsetting the main story line," commented Huo Ding, editor of Movieview, China's most popular film magazine.
"Feng has not veered away from his tenet of 'serving the people,' and from the audience reaction the public has again embraced him," Huo told China Daily.
A random sampling of audience feedback found a consensus that, unlike House of Flying Daggers, Feng's movie has lived up to expectations and even touched some hearts.