I try not to make predictions about the future of cinema. However, one that I feel somewhat confident in is cinema’s continued global growth over the next decade. Specifically, the two major Asian markets of China and India will continue to impact cinema across the globe. If you’re in North America, you probably envision this globalization of cinema taking place in the form of ever-increasing spectacle action films, like a Venom 2 because Venom 1 made over 250 million dollars in China.
But what if those coveted overseas markets were to cut out the middle man entirely? The answer may look similar to Sam Quah’s Sheep Without a Shepherd, a remake of a popular Hindi film titled Drishyam, about kindly family man named Weijie (Yang Xiao) who uses his extensive knowledge of film to cover-up a murder committed by his wife (Zhuo Tao) and daughter (Wenshan Xu). Quah’s thriller has been a tremendous success in China, supposedly out grossing Ip Man 4, and is now finally making it onto the genre circuit around the world.
There’s no doubt that Quah’s film delivers upon it’s thrilling, maze-like, narrative. It’s a narrative that’ll undoubtedly keep you engaged. Yet, for a film about a cinephile outsmarting the police, you’d hope that it’s bevy of references would be a little less, I dunno, basic? The film’s tastes, save one very specific, and to be fair notable, instance, are decidedly American and decidedly mainstream. For a film that is so engrossed in the idea that cinema is secretly the suturing of narrative time in order to tell a believable story, you’d imagine that F for Fake, the G.O.A.T of such films, would have a starring role. But alas, all Sheep Without a Shepherd seems determined to do is tell a compelling story; successfully, but blandly.