Saving Mr. Wu (2015)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2018-03-15
Summary: Saving Andy Lau
Andy Lau plays a multi-faceted character (or at least a character with meaning on several levels of the movie) as the titular Mr. Wu. His initial character is a movie actor who gets kidnapped from an event by a gang impersonating police officers. He is taken to a hideout, secured with chains and told he is being held for ransom. He isn’t told what the ransom is, only that he will be killed if it isn’t paid within by hat evening. HIs character is one who often has action roles which allows him to either fantasize about grabbing an automatic rifle that a captor has left unattended--his hands are cuffed loosely in front--and shooting the kidnappers, or for the filmmaker to have a flashback to an action picture in which he rescues hostages. Wushows righteous indignation at the treatment of a working class hostage whose family is unable to raise the ransom money and who the kidnappers decide to kill in front of Wu, partially to show him they are serious.

In doing so the filmmakers showed how Lau as has held the screen for decades--even though Lau/Wu is a rich, successful movie star he overcomes his fear and saves the hostage’s life by offering to pay his ransom as well. We believe Wu would do this because we believe Andy Lau--handsome and talented but self-deprecating, wealthy but humble, a film star but still one of the people--or at least the roles he has played. The talk of money brings on the second part of the film--the chief villain, played with maniacal glee by Wang Qian-Yuan says that he doesn’t care about life, only about money. When Wu offers a bank card with RMB 3 million (about $475,000 today), he scoffs at first but then decides it might be the best deal he can get. While this is going the action switches through sudden cuts to the police effort to free Wu, taking us out of the claustrophobic confines of the kidnappers lair to to the holding cells, interrogation rooms and offices of the police.

We know, of course, how the movie will end--and not only because it is based on a true story but that having Andy Lau garrotted by evil thugs in the last act just isn’t done. While this might be a disadvantage, “Saving Mr. Wu” is still an exciting blend of hostage drama and police procedural that keeps us involved with the fate of the hostage and the actions of the cops. Writer/director Ding Sheng has a masterful grasp of cutting and editing as well as the value of surprise. The ringleader is shown in police custody early on but we either gloss over it, assume it is just part of establishing his bona fides as a bad guy--well known to the police--or just accept it as part of the slam-bang intercuts that Mr. Ding, who also edited, does so well.
Reviewer Score: 8