English Title: The Looming Storm
Original Title: Bao xue jiang zhi 暴雪将至
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director/Writer: Dong Yue 董越
Music: Ding Ke 丁可
Cinematography: Cai Tao 蔡涛
Duan Yihong 段奕宏
Jiang Yiyan 江一燕
Du Yuan 杜源
Zheng Wei 郑伟
Liu Tao 刘桃
Zheng Chuyi 郑楚一
Zhang Lin 张林
Mainland Chinese filmmaker Dong Yue’s forbidding feature debut THE LOOMING STORM, takes place in a dun, clammy small industry town (shot in Henyang, Hunan province), and turns back time to 1997, when our protagonist Yu Guowei (Duan Yihong), whose name can be translated as something like “the supernumerary of a great country”, the head of a state-run steel factory’s security department, an amateur sleuth who aspires to become an institutional policeman, so when a series killer is at large, he knuckles down to seek out the felon, but in the end of the day, he is convicted of mayhem and serves a 10-year stint in the joint.
Structured as a lengthy flashback after Guowei gets out of the prison, THE LOOMING STORM ups the ante in banking on Duan Yihong’s chameleon-like leading performance to not only set the motion of the detective story, with a chilling cat-and-mouse chasing set piece that functions as an anticlimactic caesura (because the curtain could have been rightly brought down on the story at that point if not for a quirk of fate, which Guowei would only find out one decade later), but also canalize its prevalent atmospherics of disenchantment, at a time when state-run factories are petering out in the wake of market-oriented economic reformation shy of the millennium.
Guowei becomes a layoff, in spite of being conferred as one of the distinguished workers in the annual celebration earlier (a scene where Dong Yue’s use of malfunctioned fake snow props is beautifully married with Guowei’s most glorious moment, snowing on his parade), which also should be ascribed to the abrupt death of his young sidekick during the chase. From then on, the story drifts into a faux-romantic attraction between Guowei and a suicidal working girl Yanzi (a comely Jiang Yiyan, juicing up a damsel-in-distress cliché with an appealing affectation), who is touched by Guowei’s largess in opening a salon for her, only to be taken aback by the discovery that she is merely a decoy for him to lure the anonymous serial killer, a ploy eventually costs him both his girl and his vigilante’s presence-of-mind.
Shot predominantly in inclement rainy days, THE LOOMING STORM saves the story’s fatalistic switcheroo near the end, poetic justice materializes in the most mysterious way, the perpetrator becomes a John Doe, at the expense of a truncheon-whipping Guowei’s pipe dream, counterpointed by the belated snow in the coda, symbolizing his stalled fate, a fiendishly poignant whodunit remarkably digs its heels in social realism and purveys viewers with striking cinematography, and lastly Duan Yihong, who eloquently covers his character’s warts and all with such mellowness and nuances, finally establishes himself a leading man to be reckoned with in Chinese cinema. kudos!