Red Light Revolution
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These days, it seems that a raunchy new comedy hits theaters every couple of weeks or so. Thanks to filmmakers like Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips (just to name a couple), comedies just keep getting wilder and crazier every year. But in the Chinese comedy Red Light Revolution, director Sam Voutas does something completely unexpected: he takes an edgy (and potentially awkward and uncomfortable) topic and turns it into a light and easy-going comedy.

Things couldn’t get much worse for Shunzi (Jun Zhao). In one horrible day, the disgruntled cab driver loses his job for talking back to his boss and then returns home to find his belongings in boxes—because his wife has decided to replace him with her actor boyfriend.

Shunzi has no other choice but to move back in with his parents—and to take any menial job that he’s offered. While working a particularly demeaning job, he runs into his old friend, Jiang (Xiduo Jiang), who reveals the secret to his unimaginable wealth: sex toys.

  
 
Though he’s shocked and embarrassed by his friend’s profession, Shunzi is desperate to show his wife that he’s not such a hopeless screw-up after all. With help from an eccentric investor—and his pretty young coworker, Lili (Vivid Wang)—he decides to open a shop of his own. And, together, he and Lili begin to change the lives of the people in the shop’s sleepy little neighborhood.

It may sound like a raunchy, outrageous comedy—and, had it been made in the States, it probably would have been. But Red Light Revolution is refreshingly tame by Hollywood standards. Like a Chinese cousin to British films like The Full Monty, Kinky Boots, and Calendar Girls, it handles its risqué topic with a light touch. The focus isn’t really on the variety of items sold in the store—though the fact that an adorably awkward character like Shunzi is selling them leads to plenty of laughs. And although we get to know the regular customers quite well, they’re not the kind of people that you might expect from a comedy about a sex shop. They’re not slick young ladies’ men or creepy old perverts; they’re sweet old guys and geeky, over-eager teenagers. They’re mostly just normal, everyday people—like your own friends and neighbors. And that makes the film feel more realistic—and even strangely sweet.

The story, meanwhile, is more about Shunzi’s struggle to find success (however and wherever he may find it)—and, along with it, a little bit of self-esteem. The plot meanders a bit, and it sometimes feels a bit unfocused, but Shunzi manages to get himself into all kinds of crazy situations along the way, which makes Red Light Revolution a lovable—and consistently hilarious—comedy.

While the subject matter gives Red Light Revolution its quirky (and occasionally outrageous) sense of humor, the characters give it its irresistible charm. And, instead of a crude and uncomfortable Hollywood comedy, it’s perfectly reserved yet still utterly entertaining.


Ed. Note: For more on Red Light Revolution, visit RedLightRevolution.com.

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