A poster of 'Silver Medalist'. [Photo: qq.com]
Ning Hao, who shot to fame - and fortune - with the small-budget film "Crazy Stone," is returning this Chinese New Year with another hilarious fare. That should give a much-needed boost of confidence to film makers who are uncomfortable with blockbusters, writes Xu Wei.
Two years ago, the unexpected commercial success of "Crazy Stone," a 3-million-yuan (US$441,000) comedy by young director Ning Hao, offered a way out for Chinese film makers to balance their budget and still hit the big time at the box office.
The film eventually raked in more than 23 million yuan in the box office nationwide, which seems to have upped the stakes for Ning's next venture, "Silver Medalist," another delightful comedy.
The film will hit the screens next Tuesday, just in time for the Chinese New Year holidays, which falls on January 26 this year.
"Even though it has a totally different storyline, I'd rather consider it a sequel to 'Crazy Stone'," the director says. "The dark comedy of 'Silver Medalist' expands on the original cinematographic style as seen in my first film, but also has more lavish scenes and more comical effect than the earlier one."
Ning obviously attaches great importance to the script.
Reports had it that he employed three teams of seven scriptwriters to work on three different storylines that was eventually merged in the final script for "Silver Medalist."
The film mainly centers on the adventures of the express delivery man Geng Hao, a silver medal-winning cyclist banned for life after being found guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs by mistake. His encounters with drug traffickers and an unscrupulous businessman trigger a series of unexpected backwash to hilarious effect.
While Ning preferred Chongqing as the setting for "Crazy Stone," he changed to Xiamen, a beautiful coastal city in Fujian Province, for his second venture.
"Xiamen today is a migrant city with many of its residents coming from the surrounding provinces," Ning says. "The city's enchanting character goes well with the film."
Some of the scenes feature hot Xiamen dialect which are delivered with subtitles.
Besides, Ning has made good use of multi-flavored music (traditional Chinese opera, Western symphony and modern rock), and qilou, buildings that mix Eastern and Western architectural style that is unique to southern China.
Budgeted at about 10 million yuan, the film was still made with a moderate budget without any dazzling stunts or acclaimed star cast.
Huang Bo, who hit the big time after the huge success of "Crazy Stone," again plays the lead, with Taiwanese TV host Lu Kung-wei playing the role of a wicked businessman who hires killers to murder his wife.