Thursday, February 15, 2018

An animated helping of Chinese noir

Writer/director Jian Liu tackles adult animation in Have a Nice Day, a slyly cynical helping of neo-noir filmmaking. Liu puts money at the center of a plot that introduces us to a variety of characters who exist on the margins of Chinese society. The story kicks off when a low-level driver steals money belonging to Uncle Liu, a gangster who seems to have been pulling the strings of crime so long he's a bit bored by his own ruthlessness. Many different folks look for the money as the world-weary Liu orders a variety of subordinates to do his bidding. Among them, a butcher named Skinny who works as a hitman. Watching Have a Nice Day feels like turning the pages of a wily graphic novel set in a trashed-out industrial town where neither the Chinese economic miracle nor the remnants of Mau's ideological boom have much relevance. To emphasize the point, the movie defines three levels of freedom, all revolving around money. First freedom: Buy stuff at the local market. Second level: Buy at a supermarket. Third level: Purchase goods online. Jian creates a world in which nothing soars and money-grubbing wears just about everyone out. If you think about it, there's a fitting response -- sort of an ironic shrug -- to what the movie has to say, something simple really: "Have a Nice Day."

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