You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Set Off

A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in "Set Off," an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang.

With:
With: Fan Wei, Ju Wenpei, Liu Hua, Wang Qianyuan, Ren Zhengbin, He Jiang, Zhang Xilin, Li Geng, Du Jun, Gang Yi, Guo Xiaoxiao. (Mandarin dialogue)

A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and actress Ju Wenpei, and Liu’s carefully composed direction, which avoids pratfall hijinks. Modest performer drew good local reviews on release last October, and is ripe for remake in any language.

Pic was the first to lense under China Film Group’s New Directors Project, announced in 2007, which aims to fund commercially exploitable low-budget features. Tab for “Set Off” was 4 million yuan (about $500,000), though its smooth tech package (led by Cai Shu’nan’s cleanly lit, well-composed lensing) and strong roster of onscreen talent make it look like a regular feature.

With its corkscrew plot, centered on the hunt for some missing money, the film drew comparisons at the time with the Ning Hao-helmed “Crazy Stone,” a similarly low-budget project that is popularly credited with launching the crime-caper genre back in 2006 (even though it antecedents go back to earlier capers like Chen Daming’s “Manhole,” two years earlier). In fact, “Set Off” is more character- than plot-driven, and owes much to Fan’s skill at low-key, working-stiff humor already evidenced in pics like “The Parking Attendant in July.”

A resident for the past seven years in Cyprus, where he owns a restaurant, middle-aged Cui Guoqing (Fan) returns to Beijing for divorce proceedings with his wife (Guo Xiaoxiao), who’s pregnant by another man. Within minutes of arriving, he hears his business partner is planning to sell their eatery, so has to hightail it back to Cyprus that night. But, on the way to the airport, his cab is commandeered by a drunken young woman, Xiao Xia (Ju).

Agreeing to drop her off, he misses his flight when he’s accidentally locked out of her apartment (in which he’s left his money and passport) and a couple of hoods come looking for her. The next day, still trying to retrieve his things, Cui gets caught up in her whole backstory, which involves various criminals trying to retrieve a pile of dollar bills her b.f., Da Bao (Wang Qianyuan), made off with.

As the plot gets increasingly complicated, Cui finds himself hunted by the cops as well as the crims, while — in time-honored fashion — he and Xiao Xia gradually develop a liking for each other.

In her first major film role, Ju, a former TV presenter-turned-TV actress who’s also a professional songwriter (and wrote the pic’s score), is aces as the goodtime gal with a soft heart, holding her own against the experienced Fan and making her character more than just a brassy gold-digger. Tight script keeps the situations coming and provides meaty parts for several supports, including Liu Hua as Cui’s film director pal and Ren Zhengbin as one of the heavies.

Set Off

China

Production: A China Film Group release of a Beijing Film Studio, China Film Group, Beijing Guoli Changsheng Movies & TV Prods. Co. production. (International sales: China Film Group, Beijing.) Executive producers, Han Sanping, Zhuang Cheng. Directed by Liu Jiang. Associate director, Du Jun. Screenplay, Wang Li, Zha Muchun; adaptation, Liu.

Crew: Camera (color), Cai Shu'nan; editor, Yu Xi; music, Ju Wenpei; art director, Wu Ming; sound (Dolby Digital), Dong Xu; assistant director, Zhu Weili. Reviewed on DVD, London, March 17, 2009. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Fan Wei, Ju Wenpei, Liu Hua, Wang Qianyuan, Ren Zhengbin, He Jiang, Zhang Xilin, Li Geng, Du Jun, Gang Yi, Guo Xiaoxiao. (Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • Media Luna Picks 'The Unseen,' 'Angela'

    Ventana Sur: Media Luna Picks Up Puenzo's 'The Unseen,' Quintero's ‘Angela’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

  • Virtual Reality Conference Promises to Ignite

    Virtual Reality Conference Promises to Ignite Singapore Media Festival

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

  • SGIFF: Anup Singh Readies Third Film

    Singapore: ‘Scorpions’ Director Readies Third Film With Irrfan Khan (EXCLUSIVE) 

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

  • Canal Plus

    Canal Plus Orders Thomas Lilti's 'Hippocrate' Medical Series

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

  • 'Call Me by Your Name' Costumes,

    Luca Guadagnino Relied on a Pair of Longtime Friends for 'Call Me by Your Name' Decor, Costumes

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

  • A Profile of Argentine Fantasy Genre

    Mar del Plata: Argentina on the Rise -- Demián Rugna

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

  • Coco Trailer

    'Coco' Stuffing 'Justice League' at Thanksgiving Box Office

    A middle-aged restaurateur finds his life thrown into turmoil by a free-wheeling young woman in “Set Off,” an odd-couple character comedy that reps a strong calling card from first-time feature helmer Liu Jiang. Entertaining, one-thing-leads-to-another ride, set in contempo Beijing, is sustained by a cleverly interlocking script, likable perfs by vet comedian Fan Wei and […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content