The character introductions here in Xin Yukun’s Wrath of Silence are interesting. The one for its protagonist Zhang Baomin (Song Yang) is slightly typical. It shows him getting into fights about things that he can solve in other ways.
The one for tycoon Chang Wannian (Jiang Wu) is more different. That one shows him visiting a school he gave money to. But even in that seemingly altruistic and nuanced act we can feel something rotten.
These seemingly separate characters, as these things go, won’t be as distant. Zhang’s son goes missing within the Northern Chinese desert. And when Chang shows up in his radar, he convinces himself that this is Chang’s doing.
Which is plausible but Xin can lay a heavy hand on the sociopolitical commentary here. The audience hears voice overs of newscasters reporting about corruption within the mining industry. Chang is a part of that industry, of course.
There’s also a subplot involving Chang’s on and off lawyer, Xu Wengjie (Yuan Wengkang), who the Chinese authorities are investigating. I’ll say that his office scenes are, at first an interesting contrast against the arid desert scenes.
Wrath of Silence ties all these characters together competently in this neo-Western. It plays with genre in some ways that work out. As much as the desert doesn’t dominate this film, the compositions there are authentically raw.
The bleached out desert and the fluorescent lighting in Xu’s offices were fine on their own. But the movie decides to add a third color palette. We get to see Chang’s varnished abode, evoking Refn’s over directed aesthetic.
That aside, I like how the film engenders tension. It also pulls off not just one missing child plot but two, and it never feels cloying. We fear for these children and pull for the adults too.