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One Night in Supermarket

Inventiveness is sustained with a light touch in "One Night in Supermarket."

Cast:
With: Xu Zheng, Lulu Li, Kimi Qiao, Yang Qing, Zhang Jiayi, Zhao Yingjun, Wang Dongfang.

Inventiveness is sustained with a light touch in “One Night in Supermarket,” a one-thing-leads-to-another comedy of misadventure entirely set in the pic’s title location. Though packaged and aimed squarely at China’s youth demographic, this could just as well take place in a 7-Eleven in Santa Monica or Seoul, making it ripe for remake in any language. Slickly made feature debut by 28-year-old writer-director Yang Qing could prove a popular breath of fresh air at young, broad-minded fests in the West. Locally, the pic goes out in July.

It’s the wee hours at Wang Wang Supermarket, somewhere in northern China, where nerdy stockroom boy Li Junwei (new teen idol, singer Kimi Qiao) is on duty with — and only has eyes for — Tang Xiaolian (Lulu Li, “Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl”). But the quiet soon lapses into chaos when balding, pop-eyed He Sanshui (Xu Zheng) comes in with two doofus heavies (Zhao Yingjun, Wang Dongfang) and demands to speak to the mart’s boss lady, Wang Sufen (Yang Qing, not the helmer).

Turns out the boss — who’s actually off gambling — was responsible for He’s inability to claim the prize on a winning lottery ticket, so he wants 9,500 yuan ($1,400) compensation. When Tang explains the boss isn’t around, He & Co. tie Tang up and take over the joint, planning to sell goods until they reach that value. However, business is slow, and as a variety of characters come and go during the night, He turns more desperate. The arrivals of the boss lady and then a gun-toting robber (Zhang Jiayi) only make things worse.

Though the movie occasionally tips over into pure physical farce, it manages to keep most of its balls in the air at the same time, with the seven main characters clearly defined and a host of cameos peppering the action. Visually, helmer Yang and d.p. Tong Zhijian make the most of the two main sets (the mart and a side room), and editing is smooth and pacey.

Script twists, particularly in the final half-hour, are clever, with one totally unexpected development and a cheeky coda. Qiao dials down his usual boy-glam stage look as the shy, bespectacled shop assistant, and Li has a relatively low-key role as the cashier. Dramatically, the going is dominated by two older thesps: Xu (“Crazy Stone”) as the despairing He and, in the final section, Zhang as the robber.

Bright color design is fractionally dimmed by the pic’s HD origins, but is OK; overall, tech package is snappy. Chinese title literally means “Night, Shop.”

One Night in Supermarket

China

Production: A China Film Group, Beijing Orange Sky Zhihong TV & Film Prod. Co., East Shanghai Intl. Center production. Produced by Zhao Haicheng, Ivy Yang. Directed, written by Yang Qing.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Tong Zhijian; editor, Yang Xiaowei; music, Ju Wenpei; art director, Guo Jiang; sound (Dolby), Gu Kejian; visual effects, Lei Zhenyu. Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (View China), June 14, 2009. Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Xu Zheng, Lulu Li, Kimi Qiao, Yang Qing, Zhang Jiayi, Zhao Yingjun, Wang Dongfang.

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