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The Wild Goose Lake review: exploitation, not arthouse

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Review

The Wild Goose Lake review: exploitation, not arthouse

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With the news that the UK would be entering a nationwide lockdown since my review of The House of the Devil, my advice before the review seems even more suited today. 

It’s an anxious time for everyone across the world, and for good reason. However, with the government urging us to sit at home and watch TV, why not do just that? 

With the world of streaming larger than ever, there’s a lot to choose from. Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Shudder. But for me, it had to be Mubi. So I decided to delve into the world of Chinese cinema with… 

The Wild Goose Lake

★☆☆☆☆

Yi’nan Diao / 2019 / China / 113 mins

When it comes to genre, Chinese cinema isn’t exactly well remembered for its contributions to the gangster genre. Outside of Infernal Affairs, which is most notable for being remade (it’s a remake whether he likes it or not) by Martin Scorsese, China has made few great gangster flicks. Yi’nan Diao’s The Wild Goose Lake is no exception.

Cinema has no borders. Great artists are inspired by great art, but upon visiting one region’s cinema, a certain style of filmmaking would be expected – countries like Korea, France and Japan, all having their own unique styles. So, when visiting Chinese crime film, it’s safe to say that a viewing experience reflective of an American straight-to-DVD gangster movie would come as quite a shock. 

It appears that Diao had no other intentions for the film except to be cool – from the script to the directing of actors. Ge Hu’s performance in particular feels like an impression of a character out of a Scorsese movie, but without the charisma or good writing.

In terms of aesthetic, The Wild Goose Lake is deceivingly attractive. Neon-lit set pieces give it a wide and varied colour palette. Eye-pleasing enough to pull viewers, while actually adding nothing at all – style over substance at its best. In some scenes, lighting even changes colour through different cuts. 

Perhaps the film’s worst crime is its tone. Ever-changing throughout the movie’s runtime, jumping from romantic, to comedy, to action, to drama. As if it weren’t bad enough, this creates casualties of its own in the fact that as the film falls deeper into its own runtime, it begins to create moments which simply don’t affect the film. Sooner than later, a gratuitous sex scene takes place in which the audience is shown way more than needed and before too long, a rape scene which does not affect the characters or events of the film at all. Dropping The Wild Goose Lake into exploitation territory.

If there were one word to sum up The Wild Goose Lake, it would be pointless. Diao constantly piles more and more into the film, with almost none of it ever adding to anything or meaning anything. It may look pretty, but realistically, it’s one hour and fifty-seven minutes you’ll never get back. 

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