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    In China’s Latest Hit Film, Family Downfall Meets Bloody Revenge

    Adapted from a 2015 novel, “Across the Furious Sea” joins a wave of successful suspense and crime films in China this year.

    Blending a gritty narrative with shades of horror and heartbreak, a new Chinese thriller film — “Across the Furious Sea” — is captivating audiences for its stark portrayal of a family’s downfall. Since its release late last month, the box office hit remains among the most discussed on social media in recent weeks. 

    “Across the Furious Sea” is part of a growing trend of successful suspense and crime films in China this year. Its predecessors, including hits like “Lost in the Stars,” “No More Bets,” and “Under the Light,” have all grossed over 1 billion yuan ($140 million). 

    Featuring an award-winning cast including Huang Bo and Zhou Xun, the film earned 200 million yuan within just three days of its release on Nov. 25, helping the film market rebound from a two-month lull after the Golden Week Holiday peak in early October. Its projected final box office revenue has now been adjusted to 668 million yuan, up from an initial estimate of around 500 million yuan by the online ticketing platform Maoyan.

    The 144-minute thriller — adapted from a 2015 novel by Lao Huang — centers on a father’s quest for justice after his daughter, studying abroad in Japan, dies from 17 stab wounds. Initially suspecting her boyfriend, her father embarks on a bloody revenge spree. But in a surprise twist, the film concludes with the revelation that the daughter actually took her own life following years of familial neglect. 

    While the film’s graphic depiction of violence and sexual content captivated audiences, it’s the candid portrayal of her father’s lack of affection and the resulting family trauma that truly resonate. A particularly poignant scene, illustrating the daughter’s imagination, features the father hanging upside down from a power pole, sparking widespread discussion among viewers.

    “He’s been trying to find the murderer, but he has forgotten to find his own daughter,” read one highly upvoted comment on the review site Douban. 

    “A commercial film centering around the themes of silent paternal love and self-indulgence deserves extra credit,” wrote another. On Douban, the film has received a score of 7.6 out of 10 from more than 227,000 reviewers as of Wednesday. 

    The film’s director, Cao Baoping, told Beijing Youth Daily that while the original novel didn’t delve into family dynamics, these themes were deliberately incorporated into the movie to create a more engaging story. “(We) hoped to infuse the film with deeper ideas, social values, and relatable issues, and transform it into a narrative that’s not just fast-paced and intense, but also fulfilling, memorable, and thought-provoking,” Cao said.

    Best known for his exploration of subtle human emotions, Cao won best director at the 2015 Shanghai International Film Festival. His notable works include “The Equation of Love and Death” and “The Dead End,” with the latter receiving the best film award at the Hundred Flower Awards, one of China’s most prestigious film honors.

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: A still from “Across the Furious Sea.” From Douban)