An Inaccurate Memoir
aka 匹夫 aka Pi Fu
Written by Leon Yang Shu-Peng and Zhang Xiao-Bei
Directed by Leon Yang Shu-Peng
Wow, did I get An Inaccurate Memoir wrong! Here I thought it looked cool and would be entertaining, but instead it just ends up being boring and making me wonder why I’m wasting time on it when I have a thousand other films to watch. A sad end, because An Inaccurate Memoir looked strong, taking place during the Japanese invasion of China and featuring bandits and resistant fighters in a near-lawless setting.
It’s not all bad, there is some awesome cinematography of wide open spaces indicative of Westerns that so many of these Eastern/Occupied China films emulate. There is some cool imagery, if you are patient enough to wait around for it. Most striking is the occupying Japanese soldiers playing soccer with a skull. The Japanese are dehumanized in most scenes, especially the raid on the bandit base by gas mask wearing Japanese troops that look like monstrous invaders.
The action sequences are too sparse, and when under way, are done with an intense energy, like every move and shot is done with great pain and heroic struggle. Think everyone acting like screaming Spartans from 300 except without all the stylized effects around them and just in a real firefight, and it begins to look ridiculous. I’m all for stylizing action films, but here it is just a mess of struggle. Sure, some characters it can be advantageous to show the heroic struggle…if used in moderation, not filled so much the seams are bursting.
An Inaccurate Memoir sputters along before the goods get going. Resistance fighter Gao Dongliang (Zhang Yi, Beginning of the Great Revival) is nearly killed when his plan to kill a Japanese prince is uncovered. He then witnesses a gang of bandits rescue their leader, Fang Youwang (Huang Xiaoming, Adventure of the King), from custody in broad daylight, and decides that their boldness is the perfect way to finish his mission.
The gang includes Fang’s younger sister, Fang Zizhen (Zhang Xinyi, My Sassy Hubby), veteran fighter Han Kui (Wang Lie), knife expert Black Dog (Ni Jingyang), younger student (and button collector) Liang Hao (Zhang Yue), explosives specialist Yue Sanbao (Sun Lei), and cannon fodder Chen Langzhong (Tino Bao Xiao-Bo, Once Upon a Time in Tibet) and cook Zhao (Wang Yi). Most members of this gang will get little characterization, and a few moments look like they cut out parts that might have helped here, but dragged An Inaccurate Memoir even slower.
Gao Dongliang arranges his kidnapping by the gang, but they just beat him, demanding he write a letter for ransom. You see, outlaws are outlaws. Through it all, Gao Donglian befriends Fang Zizhen, who feels sorry for him. Eventually, he is released because he’s useless.
Though the rescue of Fang Youwang was neat, the action doesn’t pick up again until a bank robbery that is heavily borrowed from Point Break, though with oversized festival masks. There, the gang blasts away but end up trapped in the bank and probably done for (that’s what happens when you don’t invite Patrick Swayze!) Except Gao Dongliang appears again and manages to release the gang members one by one with a series of bluffs. This is enough to earn a way into the group.
Gao Dongliang doesn’t reveal why he’s joined them, but only has them sniff around the local Japanese base because they think they can earn some money there. Instead, he attracts the attention of the Japanese, who raid the bandit hideout. Gao Dongliang is only spared because he rescues Fang Zizhen.
Eventually, the surviving bandits decide to follow Gao’s plan, except in their own way and for their own reasons. Basically, ransom! Thus we get the final raid at a Japanese base during a dedication ceremony for a Buddha statue.
There is an overall theme of being stuck in your role in life due to obligation. Gao Dongliang is always a resistance fighter as long as his country is threatened. The bandits will always be bandits, the few attempts to escape the life end bad. The women who are in the bandit group are given opportunities to give up the life, but refuse for various reasons. Even Fang Youwang’s girlfriend (prostitute Madame Seven(Liang Jing)) if given a stack of money so she can buy some land and find a farmer to marry, but refuses to leave her life because that means leaving Fang Youwang. Black Dog doesn’t want to settle down due to loyalty to Fang Youwang, and Liang Hao doesn’t even get enough characterization to show why she doesn’t leave. In addition, posters prominently feature her in a schoolgirl outfit covered in blood, but most of those scenes are missing, and she just appears out of nowhere in the middle of the final battle.
An Inaccurate Memoir is a rough film that is both too long and too short. The bright segments are too few and far between, and the whole thing collapses long before the final battle. If anything, I can hope the “inaccurate” part of the title refers to the missing pieces that would make this film better.
Rated 4/10 (food stuff, local cool police chief, the cook, ain’t got time to make it bite size)
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