China Salesman has got to be one of the most baffling, expensive pats on the back China has ever given itself. A two-hour stroke job of a movie from Chinese production companies and first-time director Tan Bing, it’s here to let you know that, when it comes to relationships with other countries, China always knows exactly what the hell it’s doing.
China is represented in the form of Yan Jian (Dong-xue Li), an ultra-intelligent IT engineer who goes to North Africa to help his telecommunications company win a competition where the grand prize is providing 3G coverage to the continent. Unfortunately, their chief rivals, represented by a diabolical, oily-ass French spy (Clovis Fouin), will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen. And that includes setting off a possible civil war our protagonist becomes integral in trying to diffuse.
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t yet mentioned Mike Tyson or Steven Seagal (billed in the opening credits as “Steve Seagal”), since they’re the ones plastered all over the promotional material. That’s mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what the hell they’re doing in this movie. Tyson plays a vengeful African (wait till you hear his “accent”!) who aids in the spy’s mission, while Seagal is a mercenary-turned–bar owner who sells guns on the side. But don’t worry, folks — there is a lengthy, prop-obliterating fight where these two out-of-it muhfuckas try to act through it like they’re still in their prime.
Really, Tyson and Seagal are glorified supporting players, brought in to appear in this narratively mangled, horribly dubbed clusterfuck engineered for China to come out looking like a champ. There’s even a scene where our hero diffuses a heavy attack by carrying the Chinese flag, and he ends up getting saluted with gunfire by both African soldiers and rebels. I know China and many African countries have good relations, but gotdammit — they don’t have to rub it in!
Written and directed by Tan Bing
Opens June 15, Cinema Village
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