In the first 15 minutes of writer-director Tan Bing’s action picture “China Salesman,” an international cast of actors — none looks at all comfortable speaking English — delivers some hilariously clumsy exposition about a contest to land a lucrative telecommunications contract in North Africa. In the middle of this muddle, two tough guys — played by, no joke, Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal — lumber around a bar, grimacing and throwing punches in a dispute over who’s going to drink a glass of urine.
Sadly, the movie never gets any better than that.
Like the recent hit “Wolf Warrior 2” (but nowhere near as competent) “China Salesman” is notable primarily for its patriotic verve. Dong-xue Li plays Yan Jian, an idealistic engineer who arrives in Africa intent on representing his country honorably, by meeting the communications needs of his potential clients, cheaply, efficiently and securely — even as devious Westerners resort to sabotage and violence.
After their opening brawl, Tyson and Seagal’s characters rarely reappear. Instead, “China Salesman” features a lot of scenes of IT experts furiously tapping away at their laptops while talking about connection speeds, intercut with the occasional explosion at a cell tower.
The woodenness of “China Salesman,” coupled with the general oddness of a two-fisted adventure yarn about hyper-aggressive telecom companies, gives this movie some “weird cinema” appeal. But if you can’t tolerate stinky cheese, leave this one on the shelf.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood