Starting out a screenwriter for the likes of Zhang Yang, this is Diao Yinan’s third film as director and this effort has already been much lauded.

Black Coal, Thin Ice is a relatively straight forward police procedural, following an impressive Liao Fan as detective Zhang Zili between the years 1999 and 2004. After a failed bid to catch a killer who leaves body parts scattered around the industrial Chinese North, Zili catches what may be a break and reopens the case in a further bid to catch the killer.

A lot of thought, time and patience has gone into this film’s construct. Leads are few and far between. Evidence is scarce and there is a growing sense of frustration and unease amongst the detectives involved. Apparently the script took eight years to finalise, and it shows in its careful methodical manner but alas, the film as a whole is lacking.

The plot, tied in with a local launderette and it’s owner and employee is a nice touch but overall the film feels quite clobbered together. A lot is left up to the audience to decipher and the context surrounding much of the action just seemed rather dull. The characters are simply too hard to care about, and the true horror of the mad man is never dealt with or explained.

Similar to Jia Zhangke’s Touch Of Sin, I just couldn’t fully get on board. It’s hard to understand what all the hype is about to be blunt. Both film’s were over long and drawn out. Both films had plot inconsistencies and contrivances that bordered on silly/illogical. And both films looked stunning but lacked sufficient depth and realism to make them modern classics.