'Free And Easy'
(Xu Gang, Zhiyong Zhang, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2018 / Film Rise - MVD Visual)
Overview: When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results.
DVD Verdict: To my mind, 'Free And Easy' is a refreshing, farcical take on the traditional crime narrative that hasn't been explored in quite this tone for, well, a long, long time (if ever).
Jun Geng's direction creates a bizarre tension throughout the film, combining these absurd and nonsensical skits with a stunning visual interpretation of an abandoned landscape.
OK, sure, it’s an odd film to come out of China, given the implicit social criticism embedded within, but it seems to have been released at just the right political climate of time, in my book.
The film opens with establishing shots of rusting barbed wire, empty buildings and trash-strewn lanes, all photographed in muted colors, emphasizing a rot long since begun.
A solitary figure walks down a lane, holding pamphlets, eventually stopped by a man in a briefcase. The first man sells Kung Fu lessons; the second soap.
Both are hustlers. What at first seems like a contest of salesmanship soon becomes a grift, and only one man can win that game. And so the movie goes, each con leading to the next.
Still, amid their dog-eat-dog aggression, our characters can still come together over food. Indeed, some of the best scenes in the movie are where former predator and prey sit with chopsticks and noodles, taking comfort from the only company they have.
Dreary as its vision often appears, 'Free And Easy' is gently funny in all the right places, showcasing an appealing cast and solid camera work. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.