Stars: Vivian Wu, Haoyu Yang, Mason Lee, Meng Li, David Rysdahl, Zazie Beetz
Chinese-American writer-director Yan’s feature debut (which she has since followed up with Harley Quinn picture, ‘Birds of Prey’) is an ambitious but misfiring and overstretched satire on capitalism and class in contemporary Shanghai, sketched via the experiences of five disparate characters.
Old Wang (Yang) is an optimistic but hapless pig farmer who fancies himself as a big shot stock investor. His sister Candy (Wu) is a plucky beauty salon owner and the last remaining holdout at a housing complex that is scheduled to be demolished and replaced by luxury apartments built by the Golden Happiness Company. Diffident American expat Sean (Rysdahl) works for the company partnered with Golden Happiness as an architect but troubled by conscience pangs. Young man Zhen (Lee) is a waiter in a hog roast restaurant trying to maintain his pretence of being a high-flying businessman to his dad, while trying to woo restaurant regular, the disillusioned rich girl, Xia (Li). As the five characters search for security, happiness and fulfilment, the Shanghai harbour becomes clogged up with the titular deceased porkers.
While all the cast are game, particularly Wu as the indomitable Candy, the picture suffers from occasional sluggish pacing, and diffuse plotting, when a little screwball energy wouldn’t have gone amiss. There are some nice ideas and insights in here - there’s an amusing subplot in which Sean is persuaded to take a job as a model, at the invitation of Zazie Beetz’s PR woman, posing as various high-flying Western stereotypes at tacky trade shows – but not enough to sustain interest over an excessive 130 minute running time.
‘Dead Pigs’ is available to stream from 12th February.
Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm