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Inseparable ("Xing ying bu li")

  • China
  • 2011
  • 97 mins
  • HD
  • English / Mandarin
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection, Busan International Film Festival 2011

“Enjoyable and big-hearted... Spacey and Wu have a real onscreen chemistry” — James Mudge, BEYOND HOLLYWOOD

Li’s life is one he feels ready to end. He is shattered by his wife’s miscarriage and at his job as a designer at a prosthetic-limbs firm in Guangzhou, he’s pressured towards the unethical in the company’s imminent legal battles. As he slips the noose around his neck, however, a knock comes at the door. On the other side is Chuck, an American ex-pat living directly upstairs. And so begins an odd and sudden friendship. A wisecracking slouch with a healthy cynical streak, Chuck slowly steers Li away from utter despair — towards a more fun and proactive (if not always noble or even legal) manner of facing his frustrations. The pair’s acts of defiance grow in scope, from vengeful vandalism to amateur superheroics. But who is Chuck, this mischievous guardian angel with a secret rooftop garden on their skyscraper? Is he a stock-market wizard at loose ends? A CIA hitman as he claims, denies and claims again? Or is he something a whole lot more — or a whole lot less — than he presents himself to be?

As China’s cinema rises in global importance, Dayyan Eng’s quirky, unsettling buddy dramedy INSEPARABLE marks a milestone in cultural crossover. It’s the first Chinese production to feature a Hollywood star front and centre. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey’s mastery of the smirk and the smartass remark, with which he made his mark in THE USUAL SUSPECTS and so many other films, is on full display here. At the same time, the role of Li provides a global platform for California-born, fluently bilingual Daniel Wu (THE BANQUET, OVERHEARD). A top-tier film star in Hong Kong, Wu is well positioned to reach a far wider audience in the coming years. Upping the ante on previous East-West cinematic collabs, writer/director Dayyan Eng (WAITING ALONE) offers his dynamic duo something more amusing than ponderous historical drama and meatier than broad, dumbed-down action-comedy — though witty and endearing, INSEPARABLE has a dark and poignant streak that adds heft to its antics. Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, a veteran of Luc Besson films like THE PROFESSIONAL and THE FIFTH ELEMENT, makes it all look gorgeous — even Peter Stormare (FARGO, etc.) crawling around in his underwear.

— Rupert Bottenberg

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