Vittorio De Sica's Italian neo-realist classic The Bicycle Thief got a Vietnamese makeover in Cyclo (1995). Now one of China's most prominent "sixth generation" filmmakers, Wang Xiaoshuai, wheels out another homage.
Guei (Cui Lin), a poor kid from the sticks, gets a job as a courier in Beijing. Without his bike he can't make a living, so when it's nicked he naturally has no option but to hunt it down. It turns out that the bike has actually been sold on to Jian (Li Bin), a high-school student who needs it to impress girls. Not that his requirements hold much sway with Guei: arriving to claim what's rightfully his, he sets in motion a chain of events that has violent consequences for them both.
Set against a disorientating backdrop of narrow sidestreets and teeming thoroughfares, Xiaoshuai's fifth film is a bleak exploration of class, snobbery and random injustice in the supposedly egalitarian environs of communist China. A harrowing, powerful urban drama.