Old Fish

Director: Gao Qunshu
Year: 2008
Rating: 6.5
Country: China

Nearing retirement an elderly long time cop is affectionately called “Old Fish” by everyone in town. He has a nagging wife and an underachieving son in the army that he worries about, but what he loves is his time away from them all ice fishing on the river near his city of Harbin. Recently, as the town has begun to develop it has discovered many land mines and bombs left behind by the Japanese and due to his experience in the war Old Fish is the man they turn to to defuse them. He does so in a matter of fact way – in one case simply putting the bomb on his bicycle basket and riding to the river and tossing it on the ice where it explodes.

Things take a dangerous turn though when someone begins leaving bombs in places that will kill people if they explode. Having no one trained in bomb disposal skills and the nearest one in another city, the police supervisor asks Old Fish if he can try. Not really feeling capable Old Fish initially refuses but when there is no other alternative and the timer bomb is set to explode in fifteen minutes he steps in to disable it. He feels great relief until another bomb shows up, and then another and another and he realizes that his luck will have to run out at some point. All of this plays out in a very understated manner with moments of nervous humor intertwined. Old Fish is in many ways a comical figure, but in truth a very heroic one. Though quite enjoyable, the film refuses to ratchet up the drama and tension in the way that we have come to expect – it very much stays at the same level throughout simply showing Old Fish doing what has to be done. There is also a taste of political convenience about the film where all the cops are gentle, friendly and honest (a point is made several times that they always pay shop owners what they may take from them to help dismantle the bombs) and all citizens are treated with respect.

Written up 04/2008