The Burns of Sin (只能活一个) – Su Cheng returns to his hometown after several years abroad to find his best friend Wang and old crush Lin Jing married and settled down. Cheng’s memories of the city reflect a difficult childhood suffering from depression and frequent fights with classmates.
Suddenly Wang is found brutally murdered in what police suspect to be one of a series of serial killings over cheating spouses. The killer kidnaps the cheating couple and tortures them before murdering one and leaving the other as a witness. Jing refuses to believe her husband would have cheated on her and desperately searches for answers to his death. At her side, Su Cheng seeks to protect Lin Jing while keeping his own dark secrets at bay.
Meanwhile police suspect Su Cheng may have had something to do with the crimes. Is his return really as coincidental as it seems?
This film is part psychological thriller, part criminal investigation. It jumps back and forth between character perspectives, centering on no single character. Su Cheng receives the majority of screen time, but often through other’s perspectives of him.
There is some confusion in that it leaps back and forth between the present and past in Su Cheng’s perspective, but that seems to be part of his psychosis to some extent. His trauma stems substantially from his childhood and past interactions with Wang and Lin Jing so their presence in his life now naturally triggers flashbacks.
There is a constant sense of the unreliable narrator in all perspectives, largely driven by everyone’s mistrust of each other combined with Su Cheng and Mo Chao’s psychological disorders and Lin Jing’s seemingly irrational faith in her husband. This unreliability drives the story as every detail you are given has to be reassessed in terms of the person introducing it. You sympathize with the police’s frustration in the investigation as they are constantly given only part of the information by witnesses.
Unless you were paying very close attention, the film does through you a curve ball in the end. The mystery of how Wang died and who killed him really was very well performed and written. Although the film itself was relatively slow moving, sometimes confusing in the way scenes were sliced together, and wasn’t anything award winning the end. . . the overarching mystery itself was unique and interesting.
Su Cheng and Mo Chao both played their roles very well, although some of the other character’s roles left something to be desired. It was interesting how Lin Jing comes across as a victim but ultimately is not particularly a sympathetic one. It isn’t clear if that was intentional or a result of poor acting, but it did contribute to the overall plot in some ways.
Nothing too graphic in our opinion, although you may be squicked by the dead bodies with burned faces and the one scene where Mo Chao is burned. Not for kids certainly. 🕵️♂️
Unique Crime + Interesting Investigation
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