‘No More Bets’: China’s New Runaway Hit Film Takes On Online Fraud
“One more viewer, one less fraud victim.” With this slogan, a new Chinese film — “No More Bets” — has captivated the country by tackling the issue of rampant overseas cybercrimes.
The movie offers an unprecedented look into the complex web of overseas cyber fraud, drawing inspiration from real fraud cases across China and featuring realistic portrayals of the industry’s inner workings.
Since its release on Aug. 8, “No More Bets” has dominated the domestic box office, raking in over 1.8 billion yuan ($248.1 million) — more than twice the earnings of “Meg 2: The Trench,” which was released Aug. 4., according to online ticketing website Maoyan. In comparison, “Barbie” collected $33.3 million over 25 days.
Inspired by tens of thousands of real fraud cases, “No More Bets,” directed by Shen Ao, revolves around a group of individuals who are tempted by lucrative overseas job offers, only to inadvertently fall into the clutches of an overseas fraud scheme.
They inadvertently find themselves trapped in fraud factories, and are forced to engage in criminal activities to survive. The film unfolds from the perspectives of criminals, victims, and the police.
Online fraud has grown rampant in China over the last few years. According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, authorities resolved around 464,000 cases of telecommunications and online fraud in 2022, apprehending 351 gang leaders and key members of criminal groups.
Additionally, the Cyberspace Administration of China blocked 799,000 overseas websites involved in fraud and 38,000 IP addresses.
Recent data from the Hubei Anti-Fraud Center reveals that younger generations are now the primary target of online fraud. A report indicated that 61.9% of fraud victims in the past seven months in the central Hubei province belong to the ’80s and ’90s age groups. Despite being well-educated, many lack the necessary caution to be wary of increasingly sophisticated online scams.
Incidentally, “No More Bets” was released amid widespread debate around overseas cyber fraud on social media, where dozens of people shared their experiences of being tricked by lucrative job offers. A related hashtag has garnered over 1.3 billion views on the short video app Douyin.
According to a domestic media report, filmmakers sought help from police and the anti-fraud center to collect information related to such online scams over the past three years.
“We not only conducted interviews with numerous police officers, but also accompanied officials from relevant departments to the front lines of anti-fraud operations for investigations and arrests,” Shen told Legal Daily.
“This movie is a very realistic portrayal of the new type of overseas telecommunications and online fraud,” Zhang Pingzhe, a professor from the People’s Public Security University of China, told CCTV.
Many viewers also praised the film for educating people and helping prevent others from being scammed. “Don’t be deceived by gambling, and don’t be tricked by job offers,” Shi Yingjie, who is from the eastern city of Hangzhou and watched the movie twice, told Sixth Tone.
One netizen commented on Weibo: “It’s not one of those films where fans are just promoting it for box office numbers. It’s going to have a lasting social impact and profound significance.”
Pan Sheng, the film’s protagonist portrayed by Lay Zhang, is a programmer who falls victim to an overseas job scam. To coerce him into working for them, the manager of a fraud factory subjects him to severe physical abuse, which includes breaking his leg and confining him to a cage. This cruelty extends to other employees who are also treated inhumanely.
“The film is quite restrained, as we have touched upon many aspects without going too far,” Shen told Yangcheng Evening News. “The actual cases are even more extreme than what we’ve depicted. What really went on was a hundred or a thousand times darker, crueler, and more brutal.”
Due to the film’s authentic portrayal of online fraud, Shen mentioned during a premiere in Beijing on Aug. 6 that his team received threatening messages from overseas IP addresses.
“No More Bets” had its test screening on Aug. 5, and in three days earned approximately 537 million yuan, breaking China’s preview screening box office record.
With the surge in popularity, the film’s release date was moved up from Aug. 11 to Aug. 8.
(Header image: A still from the film. From @电影孤注一掷 on Weibo)