Home  /  Movies  /  Article 20
Based on 6 reviews
Details  •  Reviews  •  Videos
Showtimes  •  Movie Stills
Everything Else  •  Related Links

Article 20

Opening Date
04 Apr 2024
PG13 Some Violence & Disturbing Scenes
Mandarin - subtitles to be advised
Zhang Yimou
Lei Jiayin, Ma Li, Zhang Yi, Zhao Liying
In a year where every challenge seems insurmountable, Han Ming’s story unfolds. Han Ming (Lei Jiayin) is a seconded prosecutor whose life is a whirlwind of complications following his transfer to the municipal prosecutor’s office. His son, Han Yuchen (Liu Yaowen), ignites a firestorm by clashing with dean’s (Zhang Yi) son and adamantly refuses to apologise. His wife, Li Maojuan (Ma Li), fiercely intervenes, further escalating the situation. At work, Han Ming navigates a minefield of professional challenges, especially his strained partnership with Lv Ling Ling (Gao Ye) which results in deadlock in their cases. Amidst these chaos, the desperate plight of Hao Xiuping (Zhao Liying) in a critical case confronts Han Ming with the harsh realities of legal and emotional conflict. With his career and family hanging in the balance, Han Ming decides to gamble everything on his quest for justice and fairness in his own way…
By InCinemas  04 Apr 2024
A riveting legal drama peppered with moments of light-hearted comedy, anchored by an excellent cast.
read more

Article 20, inspired by real life cases of justifiable defense, is co-produced by China’s Supreme People’s Procuratore (SPP) and the first legal-themed drama by veteran multi-award winning director Zhang Yimou. The film title refers to a clause in China's Criminal Law that says "if a person acts to stop his or others' rights being harmed, it is “justifiable defence” and should not be punished. If the defence exceeds “the limits of necessity”, the person will be eligible for mitigated punishment."
The film revolves around 3 cases and the determination of a team of prosecutors working to resolve the cases amidst the complexities of proving justifiable defence under the titular Article 20 whilst facing political influences and having to deal with precedents from previous cases. The first case focuses on a desperate man who retaliated and seriously injured the village bully for repeatedly assaulting his wife sexually. The second is a bus driver petitioning against being accused as an assailant after he bravely took action to protect a young woman from 2 hooligans. The third is a high-school student who intervened in a vicious bullying incident which escalated.  
From the onset, the film grasps the audience’s attention with its witty fast-paced dialogue and dramatic take on realistic scenarios which tugs at the heartstrings. We root easily for the struggling “heroes” against “villains” in the face of challenging circumstances, as we follow deputy prosecutor Han Ming (Lei Jiayin), a middle-aged, conflict-adverse doormat as hemuddles through his work and personal life. With his recent transfer at work, Han Ming works under his ex-love interest, Lu Lingling (Gao Ye) who is an idealistic woman always ready to challenge her superiors. Han Ming tries to protect his meddlesome wife from finding out that he is working with his ex-love interest. Unfortunately for Han, he soon faces inevitable escalating conflict in both his home and professional life.   
The differing approaches clash and frustrate both protagonists as they work to unravel the facts of the case where Wang Yongqiang (Yu Hewei), accused of severely injuring the thug who raped his handicapped wife Hao Xiuping (Zhao Liying) amidst internal pressure from the thug’s father who aggressively exerts his influence to force a conviction. The troubling circumstance of this case echoes a case handled by Han Ming many years ago in which a bus driver was convicted of being an assailant despite defending and protecting a helpless girl. 
Concurrently, Han Ming’s son, Yuchen (Liu Yaowen) mirrors the case Han Ming is prosecuting when he steps in to defend a terrified high school classmate from a vicious bully who happens to be the new principal’s son. Han Ming’s wife, Li Maojuan (Mal Li) staunchly defends their son’s actions as morally correct and takes the view that he does not need to apologise for his actions of protecting a fellow student which puts Han Ming in a difficult position.  
In the final scene, Han Ming defies the odds with his passionate courtroom speech on how fairness should transcend legal convention to the prosecutorial committee which neatly ties the 3 cases neatly together as well as summarises the central conceit of the film in weighing the applicable laws against justice. 
This emotional heroic grandstand play, seen in many Hollywood films on injustice, seems wildly fanciful as the film has stressed the difficulty of establishing self-defence within China’s legal boundaries. However, Han Ming’s heroic moment also serves as a validation of his self-realisation journey to be a better person and a better prosecutor.   
Kudos to Director Zhang Yimou who cleverly injects humour into an otherwise overly intense legal drama with scenes revolving around Han Ming and his wife as they banter back and forth mercilessly at a rapid fire pace with hilariously funny winning lines (which should be credited to screenwriter Meng Li). It is most amusing to watch Han Ming as he squirms and tries to hide the working relationship he has with his ex-love interest from his wife to keep the peace at home.  
Lei Jiayin and Mal Li must be commended for their wonderful on-screen chemistry and their naturalistic portrayal of a middle-aged couple as they bicker and navigate through life challenges and misunderstandings. Lei anchors the film and in his earnest portrayal, we can relate to Han, as a well-meaning but disillusioned prosecutor. He is well-matched by Ma as the headstrong wife who sees right and wrong in more clear-cut terms. But t he standout performance belongs to Zhao Liying as the brutalized and terrified wife, facing a terrible evil done to her while grappling with both physical disability and economic strife.
The acclaimed director has created a crowd pleaser by brilliantly combining drama and comedy with a subtle but politically charged message. Some may consider Article 20 as a contemporary propaganda film, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film as a riveting legal drama peppered with appropriate moments of light-hearted comedy and anchored by an excellent cast.  

Can humanity triumph over evil and a rigid legal system? Watch it to find out for yourself.  
read less
Trailers / Videos
Official Trailer

Get Showtimes