Thrills aplenty in Chinese trafficking drama No More Bets
No More Bets (NC16)
130 minutes, opens on Thursday
The story: Lured by the promise of high-paying jobs, Chinese programmer Pan Sheng (Lay Zhang) and model Anna (Gina Jin) find themselves trafficked to a South-east Asian location and press-ganged to commit cyber frauds.
South-east Asia has emerged as the epicentre of cyber rackets following the post-pandemic surge in online activity.
No More Bets is based on director Shen Ao’s three years of research, and Pan Sheng and Anna could be any among the hundreds of thousands – Singaporeans included – who are enslaved in scam mills operated by Chinese syndicates along the Myanmar border.
Pan is forced into data scraping. Anna is a croupier on a gambling app, which becomes the ruinous addiction of a recent graduate (Darren Wang) in China, although the workers themselves are as much victims – first kidnapped, then tortured for trying to escape.
Anna is, moreover, subjected to the monstrous manager’s (Eric Wang) sexual violence.
The despair and seediness within their fenced compound are realistic.
China’s summer box-office champion, which grossed US$490 million (S$667 million), is a white-knuckled crime thriller that offers an unprecedented look at the inner workings of a shadowy multi-billion-dollar industry from the perspectives of the gangs, their prey and the Chinese police task force.
But as the crusading inspector played by Mei Yong takes over the later scenes, this docudrama reveals its true agenda. It is above all propaganda for the state’s upstanding law enforcement, its anti-fraud moralising concerned more with protecting the party’s image than the people.
The victims are left cheated by even the movie that should have been about their plights.
Hot take: China’s tense but xenophobic hit drama is an eye-opener on Internet crime, a warning to anyone tempted by cryptocurrency or that discounted designer bag.