Review: In ‘Old Stone’ the system crushes a good man

Tom Long
The Detroit News

A too believable picture of a life run aground by bureaucracy and regulations, “Old Stone” is proof that being crushed by the system is a near-universal concern.

The system here is Chinese, but this story could be adapted to most cultures. A taxi driver named Lao Shi (Chen Gang) is grabbed by a drunk passenger and his car hits a stranger on a motorbike. The drunk runs off, Lao Shi calls an ambulance, no one comes and the victim lies in the street bleeding and foaming at the mouth.

So Lao Shi drives the victim to the hospital himself, saving the man’s life. Unfortunately, this also makes him responsible for the man’s hospital bills and the man goes into a coma. Soon Lao Shi is squandering his life savings on someone he’s never even met.

The police investigating the accident are indifferent, and Lao Shi’s employer and insurance company insist he should have followed procedure and stayed at the scene of the accident. So they won’t pay anything towards the victim’s bills. Eventually Lao Shi’s wife throws him out and he ends up living in the victim’s hospital room, since he’s paying for it.

With everything going from bad to worse, Lao Shi begins entertaining dark options. Then things get messy.

First-time director Johnny Ma goes for gritty realism in this mostly psychological thriller about a good Samaritan drowning in dark waters. For most of the film Lao Shi is trying to do the right thing, but only wrong comes of it. There’s no clear reason why this movie is called “Old Stone”; “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” might have been a more appropriate title.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

@toomuchTomLong

‘Old Stone’

GRADE: B

Not rated

Running time: 80 minutes

At the DFT