The title of writer-director Yang Qing’s caper picture “Chongqing Hot Pot” refers to the city’s culinary specialty: a spicy boiled dish served in hole-in-the-wall restaurants on nearly every block. The movie is similarly flavorful, but also just as common.
Chen Kun, Qin Hao and Yu Entai play lifelong chums whose friendship fractures due to an ill-advised investment in an underground eatery they call “Cave Hot Pot.” An attempt to save the business via a DIY expansion has an unexpected result when the wall-busting leads the trio into an adjacent bank vault.
Bai Baihe plays an old acquaintance of the struggling restaurateurs, who’s also a disgruntled employee of the bank they’ve breached. She comes up with a plan for them all to get rich, but before they can see it through to completion another band of thieves attempts a heist of their own.
The twisty plot mostly comes together via flashbacks, following an opening armed robbery. Too often though, Yang opts for brute force over brains, defaulting to violent fights that don’t quite fit with the film’s overall lightness.
Still, “Chongqing Hot Pot” effectively stokes the fantasy that with the right breaks, a group of struggling, hard-working folks can get their just reward. It’s a tasty notion, if not enough to nourish an entire movie.
‘Chongqing Hot Pot’
In Putonghua/Chongqing dialect with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park and AMC Puente Hills 20, City of Industry