Honestly, had I known the original translated title of the novel "The Man from Beijing" was based on was called "The Chinaman," I'd have likely saved myself three-hours of near boredom and disbelief. The novel, a product of Swedish crime novelist Henning Mankell, best known for his "Wallander" series was adapted for German TV in two, 90-minute installments much in the fashion that the original "Dragon Tattoo" trilogy was created for television before being edited for time to serve as theatrical releases. There are two more huge similarities between "The Man from Beijing" with that iconic film series, one being the series' lead actor Michael Nyqvist playing a supporting role in this film and secondly, "The Man from Beijing's" utterly shoddy attempt at competence, a trait shared by both "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest."
The premise of this convoluted mess is simple enough: 18 people in a remote Swedish town are found massacred by an unknown assailant and all 18 are related to Briggita Roslin (Suzzane von Borsody), a local judge. From there, provided the 45-minutes the movie takes to actually show signs of going anywhere, viewers are drug through a marginal, modern thriller, that tries something new and fails miserably in the process. Roslin's journey is slow and arduous and even the change of scenery that takes place midway through the story doesn't make up for a story that moves too slow, doesn't have much in terms of true revelations to offer, and eventually resorts to sensationalism to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. The reveal of the killer, is nearly laughable evoking images of slasher film villains and in actuality, is rather insulting to the viewer; if that weren't enough, this lame encounter serves as the midway cliffhanger between 90-miniute installments.
Eventually, fragments of the ultimate motivation for the opening murders (as well as a few other over the course of the film) are slowly revealed, with the final piece of the puzzle more or less telegraphed from point one. It is here in which the story tries to throw viewers for a loop, traveling back more than a hundred years to the relatives of two key characters in the story. It's also here where the reasoning behind the novel's literal title makes sense, but is no less insensitive. Unfortunately, what should have been an event filmed and acted with care is a ham-fisted, melodramatic piece of nonsense; the amount of over-the-top malevolence that takes place shocks me that a woman wasn't tied to the nearby train tracks in the scene. The flashbacks serve as a catalyst that portrays the descendants of a survivor of a very real historical injustice as bloodthirsty and callous, in effect, broadly dehumanizing the victims. The only solace is as "The Man from Beijing" becomes more convoluted with a sizable supporting cast of smaller characters and some international intrigue, it does provide a resolution, that firmly decides to embrace the sloppy over-the-top, but still dead serious, tone of the film. To be blunt, "The Man from Beijing" is a barely tolerable film, mediocre, if not bad in many aspects, but too serious to openly mock; a thorough waste of time.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a mixed bag due to a few glaring errors. The color palette captures both the cold, rural landscapes, and warm inviting urban cityscapes. Detail is above average with minimal digital grain/noise. Contrast on the other hand can be infuriatingly strong at time, obscuring details in some shots. There's a bit of minor compression artifacts, but most glaringly some meddlesome aliasing problems.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 German audio track is mediocre at best, dialogue is somewhat difficult to hear and the score and effects can feel overpowering at times. Dynamic range is only truly evident during the tensest moments of the program, while the low-end elements of the surround track are definitely impressive for the genre. A 2.0 German track is included as well as English subtitles.
The lone extra is a promotional in nature, 15-minute featurette titled "The Making of 'The Man from Beijing.'"
"The Man from Beijing" is at best a 105 to 120-minute story stretched painfully thin; even with a shorter running time, nothing can save it from being a thriller with little unseen suspense, barely engaging characters, and the introduction of real history for a cheap plot twist. It's ineptitude is insulting in every sense of the word. Skip It.