Old Stone [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Zeitgeist Films / Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (26th February 2018).
The Film

"Old Stone" reminded me of the classic Film Noir, "D.O.A." (1949) from Rudolph Maté where a doomed Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) walks into a police station to report his own murder; he has been poisoned earlier and the rest of the film is a flashback as he pursues his killers. "Old Stone" has a similar tone and feeling, illustrating the old adage that “no good deed goes unpunished” which proves to be all too true.

The film starts with footage of a lush green forest with swaying trees seen from a distance, a storm is approaching and we can hear the sound of thunder in the distance. The main character is Lao Shi (Gang Shen), an ordinary citizen who makes a living driving a cab in one of the crowded cities of mainland China; his life is about to be turned upside down from the results of a drunken passenger that grabs the wheel thus causing a near fatal accident with a motorcyclist. After calling authorities to report the incident, he does not heed the cries of eyewitnesses and instead of waiting, rushes the man to the hospital, where the man’s life is saved. Thus begins a Kafka-esque nightmare of pushy insurance companies that deny responsibility, endless hospital bills for which he is held responsible for, and his own cab company’s refusal to stand behind him as a safe driver. No matter who he turns to, he is decidedly in the wrong; circumstances begin to take a darker turn, as an ordinary man is pushed to extreme lengths. When his wife, Mao Mao (Nai An) leaves him because of the drain on their savings, Lao finds himself in familiar Noir territory; a place of neon lit wet streets, endless car rides through the city landscape, and restless hours in a hospital bedside chair. By trying to do the right thing, Lao finds the fates laughing at him instead.

As the film continues, we venture into darker and darker areas: Lao’s wife departs, his daughter is only concerned with regaining her cell phone, and his friends and co-workers subject him to ridicule. The bureaucratic forces at work continue to mock his efforts and the lawyer that he consults with boldly tells him that he would have been better off if the victim had simply died. Director Johnny Ma’s message is that life is definitely cheap in China and compassion is better purchased on a lay away plan if available. The ending where the victim and his would be savior turned murder is a excellently filmed shot, using a crane shot to shoot down on the two men as the helplessly struggle in the muddy fields, they are like two animals or insects in a life and death struggle. This ending also pays homage to another Film Noir remake, Martin Scorsese’s "Cape Fear" (1991). Ma is certainly a filmmaker to watch and for a debut film, "Old Stone" is certainly something to get excited about. By mixing the new jaded influx of ideas and straining them through an older classic template, Ma produces a film that is completely his own.


Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression, Johnny Ma sorts the film into almost two sections, the pre accident part and then the darker aftermath where our protagonist begins to come around to a more pro-active point of view. The neon lit street-scapes in the second half of the film had me ecstatic.


Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo are two audio options, the use of a claustrophobic soundtrack of street sounds, percussion and other moody sounds is powerful and effective. The dialogue scenes are clean and clear and the closing use of bagpipes for the credits scene is moving as well. There are English burned-in subtitles.


Kino has included a featurette, a series of deleted scenes, a short film, plus the film's theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look.

"Behind-the-Scenes Footage" featurette runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds, there's nothing worth writing about here as this is a through away seen of the director and crew clowning during a public dance scene.

There are three deleted scenes:

- "Mao Mao" runs for 2 minutes 19 seconds.
- "Thief" runs for 5 minutes 18 seconds. A scene that the director choose to leave out that is enlightening regarding Lao’s character.
- "Alternative Ending" runs for 3 minutes 23 seconds. A lesser pessimistic ending for those that prefer that type of conclusion.

“Grand Canal” a short film by Johnny Ma which runs for 19 minutes 12 seconds.

The film's original theatrical trailer runs for 1 minute 12 seconds.


Packaged in a plastic blu-ray keep case.


The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-


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