My notes on Wu Sha (Sheep Without a Shepherd), which has screened/streamed at the Fantasia Festival.
This is a Thai/Chinese remake of the Mayalam language Indian film Drishyam (2013), which has already been remade in Kannada, Telegu, Tamil, Hindi and Sinhala. Clearly, the basic story has a great appeal across Asia. Given that it addresses feelings about the police and local politics in terms of a cannily-constructed cat-and-mouse suspense melodrama, I’d not be surprised to learn that someone was busily crafting an American version which would take in the Black Lives Matter protests.
In a small town in Thailand, teenager Ping Ping (Wenshan Xu) and her mother A Yu (Zhuo Tan) bludgeon rich kid rapist Su Cha (Tianyang Bian) and Li Weijie (Yang Xiao) has to come back from a business trip to cover up the incident – the family (well-integrated Chinese immigrants) can’t go to the police because the rapist’s mother La Wen (Joan Chen) is the fearsome local police chief and her husband is running for Mayor. Weijie buries the youth in the graveyard next door and, schooled in crime movies (especially citing the Korean thriller Montage), sets about constructing a perfect alibi for the whole family, which includes a much younger daughter (Xiran Zhang) who seems unlikely to hold up under interrogation. La Wen is stern, manipulative and ruthless – but also a brilliant, instinctive detective with a personal stake in the case … and it’s sod’s law that the only cop who believes in her intuition about the Li family is a low-level, corrupt bully with a grudge against Weijie whose one useful piece of evidence (he saw Weijie drive off in the missing boy’s yellow sports job) is easy to dismiss.
The script perhaps over-eggs the situation by making the Li family outrageously innocent and putupon, though there are interesting undercurrents between the father and daughter, who are semi-estranged at the outset but bond again as they become criminals together … but the bigger picture, which leads to riots against police injustice as the apparatus of the law is brought to bear against ordinary citizens, is potent and understated. Director Sam Quah gets good work from a fine cast – Chen is terrific in what could have been a one-dimensional gorgon role – and puts together the complicated story with quiet skill.
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