Beijing Bicycle (2001)



Critic Consensus: Though rather repetitive in its plot, Beijing Bicycle provides an interesting look at the economic and social changes that have occurred in China.

Movie Info

A young man from rural China struggles to make good in Beijing in this drama, which suggests an updated and relocated variation on the neorealist classic Ladri di Biciclette. Guei (Cui Lin) is a teenager who arrives in the big city looking for work; he and a handful of other youngsters are hired as bicycle messengers, with their employer giving them new mountain bikes under the condition that they're paid ten yuan for each message they deliver, and the bicycles are theirs once they've made 58 … More

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and brief nudity)
Genre: Art House & International, Drama
Directed By: ,
Written By: Wang Xiaoshuai, Tang Danian, Peggy Chiao, Hsu Hsiao-ming, Xiaoshuai Wang
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 9, 2002
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site

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as Guei

as Jian

as Qin

as Da Huan

as Jian

as Father

as Mother

as Father

as Rong Rong

as Manager

as Accountant

as Mantis

as Qui Sheng

as Qui Sheng

as Jian's Classmate

as Classmate of Jian

as Jian's Classmate

as Classmate of Jian

as Classmate of Jian

as Classmate of Jian

as Biker

as Biker

as Classmate of Xiao

as Classmate of Xiao

as Xiao's Classmate

as Classmate of Xiao
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Critic Reviews for Beijing Bicycle

All Critics (74) | Top Critics (24)

An artful yet depressing film that makes a melodramatic mountain out of the molehill of a missing bike.

Full Review… | June 28, 2002
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

With Beijing Bicycle, Wang has crafted a picturesque morality tale that slyly depicts the hopelessness of communism while pointing up the essential similarities between people of all classes.

Full Review… | May 31, 2002
Toronto Star
Top Critic

Make no mistake, [Wang's] camera is saying, and don't be deceived by the Communist rhetoric -- this city is as class-ridden as any in the West.

Full Review… | May 31, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

While Wang Xiaoshuai's film doesn't plumb the depths, nor resonate with the kind of profound irony of Vittoria De Sica's 1947 classic, it is nonetheless an affecting, poignant drama.

May 30, 2002
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

What's most unusual about Beijing Bicycle in terms of recent Chinese history is that any form of class conflict is depicted at all.

March 13, 2002
New York Observer
Top Critic

Fails to deliver either a social message or a good story.

Full Review… | March 8, 2002
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Beijing Bicycle


In Beijing the bicycle is everything. This sad movie focuses on one bike and the part it plays in the lives of two young characters - one trying to make a living, the other trying to gain respect amongst his peers.

Ross Collins

Super Reviewer

The ideal inheritor of De Sica's Bicycle Thief,erupts as a serious contender against composing deals,circumstantial notions and a willing contradiction of ideas.Xiaoshuai is a very underrated Chinese modern trespasser of independent film-making and he sure knows to catch our breath with the flamboyance of his people and characteristics of their self.The finale is amidst the top of 00's.

Dimitris Springer

Super Reviewer

Guei (Cui Lin) is a young, new arrival to Beijing from the countryside, simple-minded but stubborn and strong-willed, taking on a job with a courier service that provides him with a bike in addition to pay--a bike that he must, nevertheless, earn with his job. He happily makes his way around performing his job, at nights discussing the approaching ownership of the bike with his friend and housemate Mantis (Liu Lei). He is happy with this job, even though it only pays 20% until he earns the bike (thereafter earning 50% of the delivery fees), but remains as simple as he began--when he attempts to deliver one letter, he is misdirected by hotel staff into going through a shower, eventually having to argue his way out of paying for it, which he is less than good at--simply repeating his occupation and saying he didn't intend to use it until he was directed, thankfully saved by the hotel's manager--intended recipient of his letter--who pities him and sends him on his way. Unfortunately, his way has been stolen--in the hundreds of thousands of bikes in Beijing, his was stolen at this time, which leaves him searching endlessly and dejected. He returns to his manager (Xie Jian) and begs to keep his job. Of course, his job is impossible without a bike, and he was caught up in his distress over that loss and nearly forgot to deliver his last message for the day. Consequently his manager, of course, fires him--but the simplistic Guei suggests that if he can find his bike--obviously a ridiculous condition--he should be able to return to his job. The manager chuckles a bit at this absurd idea, but says, effectively, "Why not?" and that if he indeed can find it, the job is his.

Meanwhile, student Jian (Li Bin) is seen with his friends practicing freestyle bicycling* in a building under construction, they commenting on his new bike, asking if his father had indeed finally bought him one. Indeed, though, this is not the object of his new bicycle ownership--Xiao (Yuanyuan Gao) is the pretty schoolgirl he wants to impress, and being able to ride a bike with her seems like the best way to do it. When we see him ride off, it is with a sense of final freedom, as if he is feeling something he has never felt or experienced before. Xiao does indeed ride with him and even goes with him to sit in the woods. Unfortunately, Mantis has noticed Jian in passing, and unbeknownst to the two lovebirds, Guei has snuck up and discovered that it is indeed his bike, complete with the marks he made on the back above the wheel. He makes off with it, but Jian manages to catch him doing so and chases him down.

Now it becomes a contest between the two to prove who rightfully owns the bike, with Jian having the backing of his friends, and Guei having only his negligble--often miserably underused, even as lame as they are--debating skills.

I almost hated this movie. The treatment Jian's friends give to Guei, the sense of entitlement Jian has offended me pretty violently--but in retrospect that came to be a positive, as the story unfolded and showed me the error of my perceptions and went in unexpected directions. Suddenly Jian and Guei were both understandable and sympathetic characters--though some actions by Jian remained indefensible in my mind. But, as I've found with much of eastern "literate" cinema (as opposed to the action variety) there is a tendency toward an observant eye in the camera, rather than a judgmental one (or perhaps the judgment is better seen through an Eastern cultured eye, I can't be sure of that) and I struggled to stop judging the film for the nature of one of its characters, but the treatment of Guei despite his intentions and limited social--or more importantly, societal--skills were heartbreaking. But this just speaks to the skill and emotion built so firmly into the film, with beautifully detached cinematography and a wonderful soundtrack that manages to encompass both ambient music and completely rhythm-oriented music, a fascinating dichotomy to represent the opposing moods of complacence and violent conflict.

A fascinating and interesting movie with a very strong and interesting message about class and materialist status symbols, but a difficult one to watch, I found.

*Honestly, this has got to be one of the dumbest looking sports I've ever seen.

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