It is a repetitive plot that does the most damage to “Beijing Bicycle,” an otherwise very promising film that examines the class struggles of the Chinese people.
This is something Chinese filmmakers have not often examined until recently, and for those interested in such things, the scrutiny of inner-Beijing life is well done by director Xiaoshuai Wang and his writers Peggy Chiao, Hsiao-ming Hsu and Danian Tang.
The hero is Guei (Lin Cui), a boy from the country who has gotten a job as a bicycle messenger — “the modern rickshaw boys” — in the big city. His bicycle belongs to the company until he has earned enough to pay for it; unfortunately, it gets stolen before he can reach that point. Without a bike, he doesn’t have a job, and without a job, he has nothing. He must find the bike.
Meanwhile, the bike’s new owner, Jian (Li Bin), is a poor kid whose father had to pay his sister’s school tuition instead of buying Jian the bike he promised him. Whether Jian stole the bike or bought it from the thief is not immediately clear, but his possession of it boosts his status among his hoodlum school friends, and helps him impress the girl he’s after.
Both Guei and Jian, then, need the bike in their own ways, though obviously the bicycle’s rightful owner is the one we are morally obligated to root for. Helping that is Lin Cui’s very sympathetic, sad performance as the loneliest kid in Beijing. Li Bin is no slouch as Jian, either, perfectly executing the frustration and rage of his troubled character.
The back-and-forth between the boys eventually adds up to something, but not before seesawing more than it needs to. It will test the patience of most viewers, and with good reason: The film gives little indication it’s building to anything. It is rewarding if you can stick with it, but perhaps not enough to leave an overall favorable impression.
B- (; )