The Dark Night of the Soul

In the opening scene of Blind Shaft, a hard-boiled thriller from first time writer/director Li Yang, a trio of men descends into the bowels of a fly-by-night Chinese coal mine. As darkness blots out the men's faces, the camera swings upward to linger on the shrinking rectangle of light above their heads. Then it, too, disappears. And for a claustrophobic moment we and the actors are left in stifling blackness. Headlamps eventually snap on, but the film itself remains deliberately, and powerfully, murky.

Song Jinming and Tang Zhaoyang make their living off a deadly scam: they lure...

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