TIFF Dispatch: Guan Hu’s Mr. Six

15 September, 2015 0 comment

Mr. Six

After learning that rich gangsters have abducted his estranged son, a former street ruffian makes repeated attempts to save him—in a covert bid to atone for ditching the boy and his mother years ago. Although played out as a drama with sprinklings of comedy, the bigger picture in Guan Hu’s Beijing-set tale is a blunt commentary on the social and cultural changes that continue to wash over China: in particular, the breadth of generational tensions inspired by her uneasy tryst with the free market and global mobility.

Played by accomplished blockbuster director Feng Xiaogang (Cell Phone, Assembly, Aftershock, Return to 1942), Mr. Six is the nickname of Zhang Xuejun, a crusty middle-aged man increasingly alienated by contemporary society, not least in his cynicism toward the younger generation whom he dismisses as sheltered brats. But when he finds out that his otherwise decent 20-something son (Li Yifeng) has foolishly crossed swords with the manicured scion of a corrupt kingpin, Mr. Six decides to inherit his debt and settle the score. Disregarding a chronic heart condition, he rounds up his posse of eager brothers to engage his proverbial last duel with a wardrobe of suited speedsters.

Guan Hu’s entertaining film packages the comic adventures of an antihero nursing nostalgia for a time when his leaner and meaner self would have relished duking it out in the rough and tumble jianghu of the city’s alleys and hutong, where disputes were resolved the old Beijing way. For his role as the imperfect man who insists on dealing in the rare currency of honor, Feng won the Best Actor award at the 2015 Golden Horse Awards. The supporting cast is as illustrious: Zhang Hanyu as Mr. Six’s loyal lieutenant; Xu Qing as his charming love interest; and Kris Wu as the film’s respectable antagonist.

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