By Rich Cline | November 7, 2000

A Chinese film shot completely on location in St. Louis, this is an off-beat hybrid that never quite works, even though it has a worthy and intriguing central premise. A young, successful Chinese immigrant couple (Tony Leung Ka Fai and Jiang Wenli) give their 5-year-old son (Dennis Zhu) a painless, ancient Chinese treatment called gua sha, which leaves marks on the boy’s back. This alerts the authorities, who take the child away and charge the parents with abuse and neglect. Numerous court hearings ensue, followed by lots of overwrought melodrama, which will probably please Eastern audiences
much more than Western ones. The acting is uneven (the Asian cast is superb; most of the Americans are, frankly, awful), as are the production values (very slick camera work sits at odds with a cheesy musical score). First-time director Zheng Xiaolong will probably find success back home with this cautionary tale of life in the Promised Land. But few Americans or Europeans will take its TV movie-of-the-week sensibilities very seriously.

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