Remember when you were drunk, Chinese and wanted to be Guy Ritchie? That’s pretty much what director Ning Hao was upon starting production on Crazy Racer. And it plays more like Revolver-style than Lock, Stock-style.
In fact, to make the rip-off more apparent, the title screen even rips off the Universal logo that we’ve all come to know and love.
Of course it’s unfair to claim to know what a director was going for while at the same time claiming he didn’t achieve it. However, I say that specifically to mean that the film plays like a low-rent version of Guy Ritchie’s films. The multiple layers are there, the strange characters are there, and the odd heist concepts are there. They’re all there, but the end result is like a party where all of the guests are talking loudly but no one is having the same conversation.
A couple of clumsy hitmen for hire get tangled in a drug smuggling operation with multiple parties all working against each other. Also, a balding guy with an energy drink company has a ton of guys dressed up as superman. Because it makes sense that way.
As you can probably tell by my oh-so-subtle tone, Crazy Racer is a mess of a movie. I’ll admit that part of it is my limited knowledge of Chinese culture, so some of the jokes sail right over my head, but the movie involves a ton of physical comedy as well (which should be universal) that just doesn’t work on any level.
The look of the thing is frantic and faux-deep with stock characters with little personality. It doesn’t rise above the normal gangster, mistaken identity concept because each member of the strange world is straight out of central casting. They are fairly lifeless with little distinguishing them from each other while the objective of each group is unclear (although the best guess is that they are all after what looks like two medium-sized bags of cocaine). This causes an understandable, basic flaw with the movie. Unable to understand who the characters are and what they are after is not a great starting point.
As far as the technical side of things, the movie looks good for the most part and has a few fantastic camera tricks – specifically a swipe that shows the outside of a moving truck, moves past it to show the doors opening, and follows the characters back inside by panning to its original position while digitally removing the side panel so we can see inside. There’s also a scene near the end (where the action finally picks up after a long stretch of peacefulness) where a lighter ignites an open gas line and blows several people right through the apartment in a panning shot. It looks good, but the humans look like the best CGI from 2002. Otherwise, it’s a great set piece that adds an exclamation point to a long, rambling, incoherent sentence.
Over all, the movie is a chore to get through. The best litmus test comes in whether or not you find the concept of several Chinese men dressed up as Superman funny or not. (Hint: it’s not). But, if you think that’s wacky enough for your taste buds, you might find the rest of it endearing. For me, it’s really tepid, and the director never has control over a snaking, overly-complex story with too many characters.
The Upside: Two very cool shots.
The Downside: Incoherent plot with average characters and bad jokes. Fortunately, none of this makes any sense.
On the Side: Director Ning Hao studied film at Taiyuan Film School and focused on scenic design which definitely shines through in the movie.