To call Trap Street a simple thriller is a disservice to a daring film that pulls together romance, mystery, drama, and faithful slice-of-life vignettes into an ingenious genre pastiche. Director Vivian Qu’s debut is superb. Li Quiming (Lu Yulai) is a young, impressionable teenager working for a digital mapping and surveying company. He has an auspicious encounter with the beautiful and fashionable Guan Lifen (He Wenchao). Initially disinterested, Guan eventually warms to the young man’s attempts to woo her with expensive gifts and thoughtful gestures.
During his initial attempts to reach out to Guan, Li tries to contact her at Laboratory 23 on Forest Lane, where she is employed. However the street is unable to be located by any of his firm’s mapping software. He asks his more experienced coworker for an explanation, but is given a mysterious, vague non-answer. Soon Li digs deeper into the question of Guan’s employers and her job as a way to find her. Just as he begins to grow close to the answers, Li inexplicably finds himself in dire circumstances; he has become involved in matters far above his pay grade. For Li, things look bleak and go from bad to worse. Is it too late to hope for a happy ending?
By definition, a “trap street” is a tool used by cartographers to pinpoint thieves infringing on their copyrights. While it is true that this understanding of the term is utilized in the film, more sinister implications begin to arise as Li becomes unwittingly tangled in the web of lies and deceit. What begins as a simple story of boy-meets-girl, Trap Street takes us into a rabbit hole. By the end of the film the façade obscuring Li’s understanding slowly begins to crumble. Sharp digital camerawork and a film noir aesthetic lend credence to the edgy political privacy issues in contemporary China explored in the film. Despite its deceptively lighthearted tone at times, Trap Street will not easily let viewers go after the final frame fades out.