There's an intriguing scene about half an hour into this film, the latest from Yimou Zhang, director of House of Flying Daggers. Takada, an old Japanese man played by the mountain-faced Ken Takakura, finds himself inside the gray walls of a Chinese prison, on a diplomatic mission of sorts. The prison isn't run like any prison you'd imagine in the U.S., where a mixture of exercise, lounging, recreational sports and shop class-type work predominates. This prison is run like an army barracks, or more specifically, a boot camp. The inmates are required to stand at proud attention in the hot sun, march for the sake of marching, and collectively chant self-improvement slogans like "Redeem Ourselves!" We also see them herded into an auditorium to silently watch a performance of a Chinese mask opera, presented for their moral betterment. Of course, by the time this scene comes around we already know that Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles is a broad comedy, so we can't exactly take all of this seriously. Trying to satisfy a real curiosity about Chinese prison life by watching this film might be like a Chinese person brushing up on American courtroom procedures by watching Liar, Liar.