In “A Touch of Sin,” Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke tells four individual stories, tangentially connected to one another. Each tale, based loosely off a real news stories from modern Chinese history, focuses on a random act of violence committed by some poor soul who has been pushed to his or her limit by the corruption of society. In the first, a miner (Jiang Wu) grows frustrated with crooked local officials and decides to exact bloody revenge. Each succeeding segment grows more complicated, following a migrant worker, a receptionist at a massage parlor, and a factory worker as they turn to violence to solve their problems.
It’s impressively ballsy that this is Jia’s first film made with the assistance of government funding, as his darkly satirical examination of the effect capitalist greed has had on Chinese society (bringing wealth and prosperity to a lucky few while the majority of the population toils in poverty) is so blatant in its righteous anger. Even more impressive is how the film’s blend of graphic violence and social commentary combines to become one of the most brutally exciting thrillers of the past year.