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'Beijing Bicycle'

Setting outpaces the story in 'Beijing Bicycle'

Friday, March 29, 2002

By Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Book Editor

The wheels go round and round in this jumbled tale from Chinese director and screenwriter Wang Xiaoshuai.

'Beijing Bicycle'

RATING: PG-13 for language

STARRING: Cui Lin and Li Bin

DIRECTOR: Wang Xiaoshuai

WEB SITE: www.sonyclassics.



It's a jumpy blend of "The Bicycle Thief" and the country mouse-city mouse fable unfolding in the jammed streets of Beijing where the bike is the primary method of transport.

Guei (Cui Lin) escapes his little village to find work as a bike messenger and earns the right to keep his new two-wheeler after weeks of hard work in the streets of the Chinese capital.

He lives very simply, sharing a room with another young man from the country and spends his free time gawking at a pretty neighborhood girl.

Jian (Li Bin) is a vocational school student whose father makes excuses for failing to buy him a bike so he can horse around with his wealthier buddies and impress Xiao (Gao Yuanyuan), a possible girlfriend.

When Guei leaves his bike unattended during a delivery mixup, it's stolen and winds up at a flea market where Jian buys it with cash he stole from his father.

Guei loses his job while Jian enjoys newfound popularity.

The rest of film occupies itself with how Guei and Jian spar over the bike. Xiaoshuai uses his little story to pound us over the head with the tired message that the modern city corrupts youth.

Jian and his Beijing posse are video game addicts, wear American sports clothes and gang up on solitary Guei. Even the lovely Xiao proves fickle as she gives Jian the brush after he agrees to share the bike with Guei.

While "Beijing Bicycle" gives us a colorful portrait of that sprawling city, its simplistic story lacks enough complexity to be a full-length film. To fill out the gaps, Xiaoshuai unreels lots of shots of cyclists pedaling around town.

It's not enough to make a satisfying story, however.

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