Review: ‘Gasp’

Destined for some kind of cult status simply due to its weird assembly of talent.

Slaughtered by crix, which didn’t keep it from bagging a bonny 40 million yuan ($6 million) in August, “Gasp” is no worse than several other self-consciously hip, emotionally frantic satires on New China’s money fever. Helming debut by writer Zheng Zhong (“Baober in Love”) looks destined for some kind of cult status simply due to its weird assembly of talent, including top mainland comic Ge You, two Taiwanese (Kelly Lin, Chen Bo-lin) and three Yanks (including vet John Savage). All that’s wrong with “Gasp” is — gasp! — it’s frequently over-goofy and overall not very funny.

Texan cheese-maker Frank Dreibelbis (Savage, coasting) arrives dazed and confused in Beijing to sell the family company (which he’s already milked dry) to a gullible Chinese investor. But Li Qiang (Ge, deadpanning wryly) isn’t gullible, he’s simply dealing with liquidity and family problems, so gets his wannabe actress assistant (Lin) to take Frank on long sightseeing tours while he tries to stop his own life from collapsing. Meanwhile, Frank is approached by a Shanxi mine owner (Liu Hua), who’s on the run. Norwegian d.p. Aasulv Wolf Austad’s saturated cinematography swings between well-composed and artfully pretentious.

Gasp

China

Production

A China Film Group, Hua Xia Film Distribution Co., Enlight Pictures release of a Beijing Shengshi Huarui Film Investment & Management Co., Beijing Zentan Culture & Media Center, Beijing San Shi Li Sheng Movies Co., Beijing Sohu Entertainment Culture Media Co., BAMC Entertainment Co. presentation of a Beijing Zentan, Beijing Shengshi Huarui production. Produced by Cai Yuan, Ben Ji, Janet Yang, Monte Young. Executive producers, Gao Jun, Liu Xiaodian, Yan Heping, Charles Zhang, Yang Wenquan. Directed, written by Zheng Zhong.

Crew

Camera (color), Aasulv Wolf Austad; editor, Tu Yiran; music, Howie B; production designer, Vanessa Carlino; art director, Tu Nan; costume designers, Guo Zhaohui, Carlino, Zheng Jing, Menalie Hug. Reviewed on DVD, London, Jan. 10, 2010. Original title: Qichuan xuxu. Mandarin, English dialogue. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Ge You, John Savage, Kelly Lin, Zhang Qiufang, Liu Hua, Chen Bo-lin, Liang Tian, Li Jing, Ji Lianhai, Warren Fox, Ji Qin, Kerry Berry Brogan, Yu Shasha.
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