Discovery

Old Stone

Johnny Ma

A hard-working cab driver in a bustling Chinese metropolis is plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare when he takes an injured man to the hospital.

Johnny Ma's thrilling feature debut takes us on an unnerving trip through China's social strata and their corresponding levels of "justice," telling the tale of a man whose honest act is turned against him.

For Lao Shi (Chen Gang), a taxi driver in a crowded city, every day of work is a fight for his family's basic economic survival. One day, swerving his car because his arm is grabbed by a drunken passenger, he accidentally hits a motorcyclist. Passersby observe and take photos but don't intervene, and when the ambulance takes too long to arrive, he decides to take the injured man to the hospital himself. But upon their arrival at the hospital, a bureaucratic nightmare quickly begins to unfold.

Unfamiliar with the laws, Lao Shi is acting on instinct. But after checking the man in, he finds that he's become legally responsible for the hospital bills. He appeals to all available levels of government, but is consistently shut down and rendered all but voiceless. Faced with the possibility of losing everything, he descends into a kind of madness and begins to think that his only possible response to such a thankless social system might be retribution.

Ma's film begins as a carefully observed social-realist drama — and turns into a furious and bloody noir that takes us out of the city and onto the dark roads at its outskirts. Chen's extraordinary and sympathetic performance is essential to the film's mission: juxtaposing Shi's practically anachronistic honesty with society's greedy individualism. Even as Old Stone goes into full cinematic overdrive, it does so with an engine that runs on humanism and empathy.

MAGALI SIMARD

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