Johnny Ma’s debut feature is a sharp, tightly edited thriller, boasting rich aesthetics and a clever non-linear narrative. Set in China, OLD STONE tackles the legal and bureaucratic systems of that nation as it recounts the psychological degeneration of one humble working man. When a traffic accident puts a man in a coma, unassuming taxi driver Lao Shi (Gang Chen) takes responsibility for medical costs in the face of an unsupportive governing structure. When these fees put a strain on his family’s livelihood, Lao Shi must face his dire situation head on—but what measures is he willing to take?
Chen Gang (The End of Year) is superb as Lao Shi, bringing nuance and subtlety to the character’s psychological development. With the film jumping between disparate moments in the narrative, Chen’s range of emotions and expressions help maintain the sense of character evolution which lies at the heart of the film’s intentions. After a tense buildup and some complex plotting, patient viewers will be treated to a staggering climax sure to put them on the edge of their seats.