Black Coal, Thin Ice
In Black Coal, Thin Ice, writer-director Diao Yi'nan takes the tropes of a classic noir detective tale – a down-and-out alcoholic cop with a haunted past, a mysterious woman with an air of danger, cases and characters that refuse to stay dead – and transplants them into modern China. Zhang (Fan) is the cop in question – wrecked by a murder case that takes the lives of several of his friends, he becomes hell-bent on solving it himself when the killer re-emerges five years later. Wu Zhizhen (Lun-Mei) is the woman – a widowed laundry worker whose boyfriends have developed a habit of turning up dead ever since her husband's own violent demise.
The film is as dark and cold as its title, unravelling its mysteries amidst frost, fog and murky streetlights. The slick veneer of the American gumshoe movie is traded for a naturalistic style in keeping with the rundown streets its characters live upon, and the result is a stark, harsh murder mystery interspersed with Wong Kar-wai-esque moments of odd urban beauty.