A Touch of Sin dangles four story threads without interweaving them: the life of a dissatisfied villager who takes up a shotgun against kleptocracy in the name of justice; a psychotic young husband in a Chicago Bulls cap who treasures his pistol and uses it often; a mistreated mistress who turns into a dagger-wielding ninja after being slapped around (literally) by a greedy man’s wad of yuans; and a young factory worker who struggles to find love and a job that's not exploitative.
The slightly schizophrenic film layers Chinese concerns into a constant backdrop of violence against the poor, women and the politically vocal, all augmented by rampant corruption. The portrait of China it paints is extremely unflattering, but with all the gun violence and Lady Vengeance ninja antics, it doesn't feel traditionally Chinese, either. Rather, Jia puts on a crazy show of spectacle whose potential political connotations make its having passed the infamous Chinese censors all the more incredible.
Based on a book by the real Dr. Devereux, Jimmy P is a rare drama about a non-sexual relationship between “two men of good will,” as Devereux says in the film, unadorned by fight scenes or romantic intrigue. The film features a standout performance from Del Toro, who ably renders Jimmy’s halting way of speaking and the protean trauma from which he suffers. Amalric manages to pull off the accent of a Romanian speaking English with quasi-French intonations, and his chemistry with Del Toro does much to sustain the film, which is dialogue-heavy. The movie received mixed reviews from audience members, who nonetheless appreciated the actors’ performances.