You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Red Light Revolution

This enterprising indie will be perceived as deriving pretty harmless fun from its "dirty" subject.

With: Zhao Jun, Vivid Wang, Jiang Xiduo, Masanobu Otsuka, Tess Liu, Bo Bing, Song Siwei, Tian Huimin, Ji Qing, Wang Liansheg, Yao Jianxiong, Tao Yangyang, Virgin Chen, Sam Voutas. (Mandarin dialogue)

As “Red Light Revolution’s” opening onscreen text points out, Beijing now sports some 2,000 sex shops — approximately 1,999 more than it did a quarter-century ago. Still, such flourishing trade retains a certain social stigma. That economy-vs.-propriety clash both propels Sam Voutas’ comedy and might well keep it off mainland Chinese screens, but elsewhere, this enterprising indie will be perceived as deriving pretty harmless fun from its “dirty” subject, in a tenor thankfully more droll than broad. Amusing pic is likeliest to prosper offshore in niche cable and DVD sales, with specialty theatrical exposure not impossible.

Pudgy Shunzi (Zhao Jun) is perpetually luckless, introduced losing his cab-driving job on the same day his wife announces she’s leaving him for a lover she’s already had for some time. Moving back into his parents’ pad, Shunzi despairs of climbing the ladder of economic opportunity until a prosperous old schoolmate (Jiang Xiduo) introduces him to a flamboyant supplier (Masanobu Otsuka) of adult toys and marital aids. (China now manufactures an estimated 70% of the world’s such items.)

Despite all embarrassed misgivings, Shunzi soon opens his own sex shop in tandem with new friend Lili (Vivid Wang, an Eve Arden-like find), whose auntie provides an empty storefront as venue. Business is bleak until they realize locals prefer to buy their dildos and rubbers at night, when area gossips presumably aren’t looking. Modest conflict is provided by a nosy fusspot whose obnoxious officiousness parodies Communist Party bureaucracy, and who’ll surely shut down the joint if he susses its X-rated nature.

The ultimately formulaic script by Aussie-born, Beijing-based helmer Sam Voutas (who also plays a porn mogul) could have thrown a few more narrative curveballs. But his generally deft direction makes the most of his agreeable performers in a fairly deadpan tenor that mostly eschews slapstick and caricature for the off-kilter, argumentative verbal riffing typical of Western indie comedy. Result is a consistently pleasant diversion, if seldom laugh-out-loud funny.

Budgetary limitations are sometimes felt but reasonably finessed in OK packaging. Soundtrack is dominated by energetic cuts from Chinese alt-rock bands.

Red Light Revolution


Production: A Scopofile production. Produced by Melanie Ansley. Executive producer, Jane Zheng. Directed, written, edited by Sam Voutas.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Yifan Wang; production designer, Yuan Feng; costume designer, Wei Xiaoyan; sound, Jules Ambroisine; assistant director, Guo Simin; casting, Tao Yangyang. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival (East Meets West -- competing), Feb. 4, 2011. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Zhao Jun, Vivid Wang, Jiang Xiduo, Masanobu Otsuka, Tess Liu, Bo Bing, Song Siwei, Tian Huimin, Ji Qing, Wang Liansheg, Yao Jianxiong, Tao Yangyang, Virgin Chen, Sam Voutas. (Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content