Saving Mr. Wu (2015) [New York Asian Film Festival 2016]

SavingMrWuIn 2004, actor Ruofu Wu was kidnapped and held for ransom in China.  With his blessing (he has a prominent part in the film), director Ding Sheng adapted his story into film for Saving Mr. Wu. The cinematic version of the events follows Mr. Wu as he is kidnapped by Zhang Hua and three accomplices as he comes out of a karaoke bar.  The kidnappers pretend to be cops to get him to cooperate but it becomes clear very quickly that they are taking him to pocket a ransom.

The actual police catch Zhang Hua while he’s gone to retrieve the ransom.  As the police interrogate him, Mr. Wu attempts to use his skills to survive and help the other kidnapping victim survive as long as possible and not lose hope. Director Ding Sheng co-wrote the film with Alex Jia.  Their script is an adaptation and fictionalization of the real kidnapping case most likely to make it more entertaining.

As with most adaptations if this kind, not all parties involved have the more exciting or exciting at all side of the story or even want to share it, so they add to fill in some gaps and spruce up some parts to make it more captivating.  The characters are based on real people but also have been tweaked to make them all interesting.

The cast of Saving Mr. Wu is composed of the original Mr. Wu, Ruofu Wu, who here has the part of one of the men charged with saving Mr. Wu, cop Cao Gang.  Wu does great work here and shows much interest in saving the movie version of himself.  As the character of Mr. Wu, Andy Lau gives a layered performance of a man who is scared, worried, wants to fight, tries to help is co-kidnapped.  His performance is one of the center pieces of the film, having the whole story revolve around him.  Lau’s acting is superb here.  The other very important performance is that of lead kidnapper Zhang Hua who spends a good part of the film gleefully being interrogated.

Qianyuan Wang plays this part to the fullest, not holding back and just going for it with the madness of the criminal he is representing.  His presence on screen is captivating.  His main interrogators are played by the aforementioned Ruofu Wu and Ye Liu as Xing Feng, an overworked father with a sick son he needs to get to.  The film rests on the strength of its cast mainly as the majority of the scenes are a lot of dialogue including the scenes between Mr. Wu and his kidnappers, Mr. Wu and the other kidnapping victim, the interrogation of Zhang Hua, et al.

There are a few actions scenes but they are not the main focus of the film, however they are very well done nonetheless.  The filmmakers gave these scenes plenty of attention, even hiring a car stunt coordinator, Bruce Law, who has close to 200 credits.  The car sequences here are great and slightly reminiscent of the low-shot car scenes in Luc Besson written films.  The other stunts are coordinated by Jun He and very well done as well.  The camera does not shy away from the action and shows the cars, the hits, the whole thing without constantly cutting away or over-editing.

Saving Mr. Wu is a tense crime thriller with a true story background that keeps the viewer interested and connected to the story with good characters and great performances.  The film is not build in a straight-forward manner, having its story skip forward and backwards in the timeline of the kidnapping which may require more attention but is absolutely worth it in the end.