Focusing on four characters, who each live in different provinces of China, Zhang Ke Jia's A Touch of Sin is a complex examination of violence and corruption in contemporary China that questions the merits of a capitalist society. These four storylines are loosely connected by happenstance but the theme of A Touch of Sin is what molds them together. We follow an angry minor whose enraged by the widespread corruption of his village, A migrant who discovers the power he is able to achieve with a firearm, a receptionist who dates a married man, and a young factory worker who goes from job to job with each being more degrading then the last. This is by far the most angry film that Zhang Ke Jia has ever made, a vicious attack on the dehumanizing effect that unbridled captialism has had on China. Whether it is the corruption that money breeds, or the power that it instills in the wealthy, Jia's film shows the horrid effects it has on these various characters. A Touch of Sin is Jia's most stylized film but it still captures some of his trademarks, most notably the juxtaposition of ancient China with this new era, illustrating the vast contrast between the two times. All but one of these characters act out against this corruption in extremely hostile and violent ways with the lone exception being the young factory worker. This young boy instead becomes deeply discouraged, eventually ending his life. Being that this factory worker is the only character who never experienced pre-capitialism China, I found this to be a brilliant decision by Jia, as the old characters are wise enough to know that this type of corruption and lack of humanity should not be tolerated. Throughout the various narrative threads we are shown news reports of tragedies such as a collapsed mine and train accident. While these incidents may at first seem someone superfluous it becomes clear that Jia is blaming corporate greed for these incidents. While the characters of A Touch of Sin could fight back against the corruption, the film reminds us that most people are not capable of doing so, falling victim to the companies bottomline in such tragedies. Zhang Ke Jia's A Touch of Sin is a complex and insightful look at modern China that is easily one of the best films of the year.
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