Starring: Han Geng, Helen Yao, Ryan Zheng
Director: Tian Yusheng
Running Time: 108 mins
Ex-Files is a Chinese film about a man with a long history of girlfriends who meets a woman with one indomitable ex-boyfriend. Although their own relationship blossoms, they are constantly tested by the presence of their exes.
Much like a lot of modern Chinese comedies, Ex-Files is a rapid-fire, farcical and fairly manic film from beginning to end, but unlike what you’d expect from a comedy movie, this film decides that flaunting wealth and extravagance, alongside some pretty vulgar behaviour throughout, is more important than simply making you laugh, which makes for a very frustrating and rather unlikable watch.
Before you think I’m being too much of a fuddy-duddy, however, let me just explain why this film’s vulgarity is so irritating. Normally, when a film wants to be a little more loose-moralled, it goes about its business while still recognising that it’s being vulgar, a level of self-awareness which always makes the vulgar comedy a lot more light-hearted and entertaining.
The problem with Ex-Files, however, is that it doesn’t seem to have that same sort of self-consciousness, and is instead a very arrogant and boastful film throughout. There are all sorts of major issues that make that so, but the two biggest ones come in its focus on an excessive and lavish lifestyle, as well as centring around characters that don’t have any depth to them apart from a desire to get into bed with each other.
Now, there are great films that can match a very similar description (Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street) comes into mind, but again, they’re always self-aware and conscious of the fact that being so arrogant isn’t a good thing, and will ultimately come back round to show that fact.
This, on the other hand, is so concerned with being as lavish and extravagant as possible, with its characters all hanging out in the hippest, most modern areas of major cities, and not doing all that much else but sitting in a pile of wealth and extravagance that’s in no way endearing to you as a viewer. In fact, it’s a trend that you’ll see in a good few movies and TV shows from China in recent years, something that’s possibly an effect of the recent boom of the domestic film industry and the beginning of churning out a heap of all-surface-and-no-substance blockbusters for the public.
The other major issue comes from the fact that this film is really lacking in any sort of moral compass. Again, morally deficient films can be great, but only when they’re aware of such a fact. As I keep reiterating, however, Ex-Files definitely isn’t, and its central romance is rendered null and void by lead characters that are so simply driven by mindless sex, making for a fairly tedious, and rather unlikable watch.
Despite all that extreme vulgarity, there are still a couple of positives that we can draw from Ex-Files, the biggest of which has to be the film’s energy. It may not have much of a soul, and its humour isn’t particularly brilliant, but you can’t deny that it doesn’t ever let up with extreme pace and a pretty manic atmosphere, to such an extent that it does (albeit in a rather forceful manner) grab your attention throughout, and often provides the odd entertainingly idiotic sequence that can make you laugh.
Overall, however, I wasn’t all that enamoured by Ex-Files. On the one hand, you can look at it as a silly, simple comedy, and its manic and rapid-fire atmosphere make that passable, but on the other, its extremely vulgar sensibilities, from an arrogant portrayal of wealth to soulless characters, make it a pretty unlikable film to watch all the same, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.5.