Mr. Six is a grumpy old fixture on his Beijing back street, ready to scold or shoot a withering look. But as we are frequently reminded in the director Guan Hu's character study "Mr. Six," he was one bad dude back in the day. That was before the money-obsessed modern age in China gave rise to spoiled rich kids, fancy modified cars and a general lack of decency. All these problems bedevil Mr. Six, whose estranged son is held captive by a wealthy, speed-racing brat named Kris.
As the rough-hewed Mr. Six, Feng Xiaogang (who is also a director of some of China's biggest blockbusters) carries himself with impeccable stoicism. He exudes moral conscience whether standing up for a beggar against the police or staring down a ridiculous adversary like Kris (the singer Kris Wu, with Olympian bearing and platinum hair).
But the baggy 137-minute story drowns out Mr. Feng's assorted sharp moments with hoary family drama and clumsy plotting, and Li Yifeng is generic as Mr. Six's son. It's also a shame that the movie doesn't develop our hero's girlfriend, the lamentably named Chatterbox (Xu Qing), or his crew of streetwise friends from way back when.
The ending makes a bold gesture in upholding Mr. Six as an actual mortal rather than an invincible vigilante. It pulls the camera back from his dissatisfied point of view (and is more intriguing than a bit of symbolism involving an ostrich on the loose), but it's a long time coming.
"Mr. Six" is not rated. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes.