Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original Title: Bai ri yan huo

, 2014. , , . Screenplay by Yi’nan Diao. Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by . Film Editing by .

A police thriller engages you in the solving of a murder mystery, then in its final act turns into a thoughtful rumination on economics and society. In 1999, body parts are found in shipments of coal being delivered to various cities in Heilongjiang Province, the identity of which are matched to the identification documents found among the remains. The police inform the dead man’s wife Wu, the employee of a dry cleaning business, and then set about to solve his murder, but the first suspect they interrogate gets two cops killed (in one of the film’s most shocking scenes), with third officer Zhang receiving non-fatal wounds from a gunshot.

Five years later, Zhang is no longer a cop but working as a security guard, frequently showing up drunk and despondent and haunted by the unsolved case and what it cost his team. His former colleague Wang finds him and lets him know that two more bodies appear to be the work of the same killer, with all three victims having some kind of connection with Wu. Inspired to join the case, Zhang begins courting a relationship with her despite the fact that she could well be the killer, putting clues together as to what really happened while the danger continues to loom and murders continue to appear on the horizon.

Stylishly filmed and featuring sharp characterizations, this one’s plot twists mercilessly through the surprises that it has to offer and never lets up until the end.

Berlin Film Festival Awards: Golden Bear; Best Actor (Fan Liao)

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