Black Coal, Thin Ice (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)


Yi’nan Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” take on a police investigation is quite fascinating.  Experimental scenes and a film with unexpected moments, Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a dark, awkward and enjoyable film that I definitely recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2014 JIANGSU OMNIJOI MOVIE CO, LTD. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Black Coal, Thin Ice


DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 16:9 Widescreen, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: September 29, 2015

Written and Directed by Yi’nan Diao

Produced by Vivian Qu

Executive Producer: Daniel J. Victor

Co-Producer: Shen Yang

Music by Zi Wen

Cinematography by Jingsong Dong

Edited by Hongyu Yang


Liao Fan as Zhang Zili

Gwei Lun-Mei as Wu Zhizhen

Wang Xuebing as Liang Zhijun

Wang Jingchun as Rong Rong

Yu Ailei as Captain Wang

Ni Jingyang as Su Lijuan

With more than 30 premieres and 20 awards from top film festivals around the world, BLACK COAL, THIN ICE is the story of a disgraced cop and his partner, still seeking the truth behind the high-profile murders that ended their careers – because it seems the killer is at it again…


From director Yi’nan Diao (“Shower”, Night Train”, “Uniform”) comes his critically-praised 2014 film “Black Coal, Thin Ice”.

The film stars Liao Fan (“Chinese Zodiac”, “Assembly”), Lun-Mei Gwei (“Secret”, “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”) and Wang Xuebing (“The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom”, “The Lost Bladesman”).

“Black Coal, Thin Ice” took Diao eight years to write and for actor Liao Fan, the actor gained 44 pounds to play the alcoholic protagonist.

The film would earn Yi’nan Diao a Golden Bear Prize at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film is set in two time periods.

Back in 1999, detective Zhang Zili (portrayed by Liao Fan) is on a murder investigation in which the victim’s bodyparts are scattered in various coal shipment areas. The dead man is identified as Liang Zhijun, one of the workers and the husband to laundry worker, Wu Zhizen (portrayed by Gwei Lun Mei).

But when Zhang identifies a suspect, it leads to an arrest gone wrong with colleagues dead and him being shot.

Fast forward to 2004 and Zang has become an alcoholic and now working as a security guard.  Having been traumatized by what happened years prior, he hopes to live a more peaceful life, until dismembered body parts found in coal shipment areas begin to happen all over again.

His former police colleague asks for his help and during his investigation it leads him to investigate the previous victim’s wife, Wu Zhizen.   But while he is supposed to help do his research on the case, he can’t help himself being obsessed with her.

But the more he looks into her past, what will he discover?



“Black Coal, Thin Ice” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is good but it’s more on the softer side, which may be intentional.  The film is primarily shot in low-light but for better lit scenes, the picture quality is much better.


As for the lossless audio, “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1  The film is primarily dialogue driven and while there are scenes involving gunshots and fireworks, those are the most you are going to hear surround usage.

Subtitles are in English.


“Black Coal, Thin Ice” comes with a trailer.


“Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a fascinating film that starts off with a grisly murder and a past that ends with one of the more interesting arrests to ever watch in a film, but as the film fast forwards five years later, it becomes an entirely different kind of film.

As I was thinking the film would become a gritty crime drama, the film becomes more about a former police officer doing an investigation on a widow which he begins to be obsessed over.

As he tries to unpeel the protective layers of the widow, eventually finding himself more and more wanting to be closer to her.

The film does feature wonderful performances by Liao Fan and Gwei Lun-Mei.    Liao went as far as to gain 44 pounds to play the protagonist, while Gwei Lun-Mei features a woman who tries to protect herself, tries to become distant, but the fact that this awkward man has any interest in her, begins to unravel her in different ways.

Cinematography by Jingsong Dong is another positive as the film is well-framed and the shooting scenes were done quite well.  But it’s Yi’nan Diao’s ability to experiment with tracking shots and incorporate unexpected situations that makes :Black Coal, Thin Ice” quite appealing.

As for the Blu-ray release, while the colors are more on the dark side and are often not vibrant, the picture quality tends to be more on the softer side.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue, while surround usage is more limited towards gun or firework scenes.  And as for special features, aside from the trailer, there is nothing included.

Overall, Yi’nan Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” take on a police investigation is quite fascinating.  Experimental scenes and a film with unexpected moments, Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a dark, awkward and enjoyable film that I definitely recommend!