starring Jiang Wu, Zhao Tao, Wang Baoqiang, Luo Lanshan
written and directed by Jia Zhangke
by Angelo Muredda The blood doesn't flow so much as it spurts in A Touch of Sin, Jia Zhangke's invigorated if uneven return to straight fiction following an extended sojourn in hybridized documentaries about modern Chinese cities. More than the formal homecoming, however, it's the nature of the storytelling that surprises in his newest--the leap from the elegiac tone of films like 24 City into the more primal stuff of pulp. A wuxia anthology with revenge-thriller overtones, A Touch of Sin is an unusually direct genre exercise for a master filmmaker, in the sense that, unlike Steven Spielberg's Munich and other comparably shame-faced prestige films that dip a single toe in the waters of genre, it doesn't condescend to the populist trappings of the material. Jia isn't slumming so much as tapping into the righteous indignation of a popular tradition of stories about wronged knights and ruined innocents, sincerely transposed here to the working-class fringe of a nation state in the throes of late capitalism. If Jia's violence comes fast and leaves a mess, then, it's a testament to his willingness to get his hands dirty where others might have kept a safer distance.