Blind Shaft

"Excellent"

Blind Shaft Review


Blind Shaft shows you the literal underbelly of China. Set in and around shabby little coal mines in the middle of nowhere, it's a shocking and totally gripping tale of murder and flimflammery that will keep you guessing all the way through.

Tang (Wang Shuangbao) and Song (Li Yixiang) are two itinerant workers who wander from mine to mine looking for work. In the film's beautifully shot first scene, the camera joins the men as they descend in a mine's elevator and look up to watch a square of bright sky disappear within seconds as they plunge into the depths.

Along with them is a third miner, a man they have met in their travels and brought to the mine to work with them. Within a minute, Tang murders the third man with a quick shovel to the head and stages a small mine collapse to make the whole thing look like an accident.

It turns out that Tang and Song are running a homicidal scam. They fool the mine owners into thinking the third man is a relative and then haggle over a payoff for his "accidental" death. Just take the money (about $3,000) and go away, say the bosses. We don't want any cops or investigations around here. The two men feign indignation and then go on their way, looking for a new mark and a new mine. They never get far, though, choosing to stick around the mining region and blow their reward on booze and hookers.

Wandering through a street market a few days later, they encounter Yuan (Wang Baoqiang), a sweet-natured and shy 16-year-old who's looking for work so he can afford to pay his high school fees. (Writer/director Li Yang takes a not so subtle swing at the government by pointing out how basic education in China comes at a hefty price.) Tang and Song reel in Yuan easily, leaving you feeling sick to your stomach. Take anyone, you think, anyone but this poor kid.

The three travel to another mine where Tang and Song try to indoctrinate the nervous Yuan in the ways of wine, women, and gambling. Yuan would rather study his textbooks, and Song admirers the boy's educational aspirations. Tang, however, is the ultimate pragmatist, proposing that they find the boy a prostitute so he doesn't die a virgin but then killing him as planned. The timid Yuan, of course, is mortified by his visit to the brothel, which only makes you care about him even more.

The next hour is a spare and spine-tingling exercise in pure Hitchcockian suspense. Every time the threesome heads into the mine you ask yourself if this is it, if this is the day they'll do the deed. There's no musical soundtrack to propel the drama along, and sometimes there's almost no dialogue, but it doesn't matter. The tension just grows and grows toward a wonderfully rewarding climax, the nature of which would be cruel to reveal.

With almost no resources at his disposal, Li has created a thriller that's as tightly wound as anything you've seen. It races along, all covered in coal dust and punctuated by Tang and Song's petty grumblings, building and building as it goes, and then it delivers big time. What more can you ask of a film?

Aka Mang Jing.

Try turning on those headlamps.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 10th November 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Qiang Li as Song Jinming, as Yuan Fengming, as Tang Zhaoyang, Jing Ai as Xiao Hong

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