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A Touch of Sin tells four short stories: a miner who is looking for justice for corrupt village officials; a migrant worker who prefers easy money to hard work; a sauna receptionist who is humiliated by customers; and a young man trying to find his way in the world. Each of these stories looks at internal corruption and how that spills over into their outer world in explosive and violent ways.

This is a very timely and intelligent film. Harnessing the zeitgeist of the changing political climate in China, each story in A Touch of Sin shows how a person reacts when pushed by not one, but several factors. The film understands that a person can be pushed over the edge by one thing, but it is their whole world – their relationships, job, family and socioeconomic status – that builds to a moment when they snap.

Interesting, for a film objectively about “sin”, it doesn’t judge its characters, nor does it show them in a sympathetic light. This is definitely the film’s greatest strength, and presenting characters as neither heroes nor villains places the burden of judgment entirely in the hands of the viewer, which is an interesting place to be.

Unfortunately, the film goes one vignette too long and loses the audience’s attention. Three is good. Three makes the central thesis of the film understood, but four beats it in unnecessarily, especially since the fourth story is the weakest of the bunch.

Is A Touch of Sin essential TIFF viewing?

If you like crime dramas and character pieces, and are fine with episodic films, then A Touch of Sin is definitely a film you will want on your schedule.

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