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Monday 19th of November 2018
Julia Davis 8th of June 2013 by editor 8th of June 2013
Million Dollar Crocodile

The Nocturna Film Festival continues this weekend, 8-9 June. Julia Davis reports on China’s first monster movie

China’s first monster movie has finally hit the Spanish big screen, with the premiere at the Nocturna Film Festival on 6 June of Million Dollar Crocodile (or Croczilla), a thriller/comedy film about—you guessed it—a massive crocodile. The story is kitschy, the special effects aren’t bad, and the subtitles make it all worthwhile.

            The story takes place in small Chinese village near a run-down crocodile farm. A local boy, the soft-hearted ten-year-old Xiao, befriends Amao, a 36-foot croc with an insatiable appetite. Xiao feeds him daily rations of ham wrapped in schoolwork, no doubt looking to use that age old “my crocodile ate my homework” excuse at some point. And like many boys his age, Xiao often skips class to hang with the crocs.

            Financial hardship forces the farm’s owner to sell off his crocodiles to Zhao, a ruthless gangster/restaurateur, who hopes to turn them into a delicious stew. However, as he’s about to be slaughtered, Amao makes a break for it. It goes on a ravenous rampage, scurrying around the village and scaring citizens senseless, and it ultimately attacks the beautiful and prissy Wen, who has just returned from Italy after eight years of working an unspecified, but presumably elicit, job. She manages to escape, but the croc devours her handbag, which contains €100,000 and a cell phone. She alerts a local policeman, Wong (Xiao’s father). He brings her to his home and tells her to look after Xiao while he hunts down the croc.

            The adventure that ensues is supremely predictable. The crocodile tears through the town and destroys Xiao’s house in the process. It’s a little disconcerting, given that the two were once best buds. But hey, crocodile’s aren’t known for their loyalty.

           The film is corny to the max, full of stock characters—the money-obsessed Barbie look-a-like, the blank-faced cop, the beast-taming zen-master, and the wide-eyed child protagonist—but one must consider that the genre prides itself on being a bit cliché. Is the crocodile supposed to be the protagonist or the antagonist? Presumably a little of both. Sometimes it’s quite literally biting the hand that feeds it; other times it shows tenderness toward Xiao and Liu. It’s not really a film about the crocodile but rather about the people who hunt him down.

            The filmography is done well. Some of the sets, such as a lake scene, are strikingly beautiful, balanced by other sets that were reasonably modest and realistic. In a creature-centred horror film like this, there are two possible dangers: the animal can be laughably cheesy or too realistic. Fortunately, this croc was neither.

            The subtitles make the movie. The translations, while usually understandable, are often slightly off the mark. In one scene, Zhao screams to his cronies to get moving, and the corresponding subtitles read “Move up your ass!!!” Moreover, Wong, who is ridiculed by his fellow policemen for his ineffectuality, earns a nickname that essentially translates as “Loser Wong.” However, the subtitles continually refer to him as “Loose Wong”, which sounds a bit like a 1920s hussy.

            In the end, it’s a modest, low-budget flick that basks in the glory its own cheesiness, and it all works out in a sort of sweet, storybook way. As Liu sums up, “Some people think crocodiles are cold-blooded, but that’s because they don’t really know them.” Or they just don’t know that the trick is to feed them ham wrapped in homework.


The Noctturna Film Festival continues at the Cine Palafox until Sun, 9 June.

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