A cab driver involved in an accident gets thrown into a chain reaction of unfortunate circumstances. Every attempt to do right and amend the situation only pushes him further into a downward spiral. As options run out and the situation turns desperate, the driver is forced into a dark path to find his way out through any means necessary.
Old Stone is the debut film by Chinese-Canadian director Johnny Ma. This film tackles a lot of issues concerning Chinese society, its relationship between government, and the bureaucratic process that is necessary to keep order. Saying that an adherence to its rigid policy is more harmful than beneficial is an understatement as we are shown time and time again how these trap our main character, Lao Shi, into a corner.
The film’s trenchant social commentary is supported by numerous stylistic devices and flourishes. Non-linear flashes and jumping back and forth between timelines is a bit confusing at first, but serve as a clever way to transition the film’s initial drama/thriller presentation into a dreamy detective / film noir like scenario during the film’s second half.
By the time we get to the end of the film, we see our character do some pretty deplorable acts. But the interesting thing is, we’re right there with him, cheering him on as he finally steps up to the plate and rectifies the situation, societal rules be damned. The chilling part is, we were also right there with him when he was just a cab driver trying to make ends meet for his family. We were there when he kept making sacrifice after sacrifice, to payback the damage cause in the film's unfortunate initial accident. We are there with him as his trust in society is repeatedly abused and betrayed.
We see his initial beliefs cracked and shattered completely as he goes off the deep end in the film’s climax. Aptly filmed in the darkness of night, highlighted with shots of trees and fields, in the background end the film in a surreal nightmarish note. But we are still right there with him, helplessly bound by a society that refuses to changes and commands that everyone else change to fit its structure.
This is a solid debut film that shows promise for Johnny Ma and should be checkout out by anyone who likes thrillers and noir.