Since its premiere two years ago at the Berlinale, Liu Jian’s animated noir-tinged crime caper has been subject to China’s strict censorship rules, with its release repeatedly delayed to the point that nobody was sure it would ever make it out of the film festival circuit. What a joy that Have a Nice Day finally gets its day in regular cinemas. Set in Southern China and against the backdrop of urban decay and grey-tinged construction sites, this black comedy opens with a double-cross, as Xiao Zhang steals a bag of money belonging to his gangster uncle. This sets ina motion a series of events that happen over the course of a single day, in which several characters’ fates collide in search for the money on an absurd – and bloody – carousel. The eclectic roster of ne’re-do-wells includes the aforementioned Uncle Liu, who knows Fauvism when he sees it, an ageing hitman with a penchant for Rocky Balboa and sombre headwear, as well as an amateur techie called Yellow Eyes who has invented a pair of “invincible X-Ray glasses”.
Writer, animator, director and producer Liu Jian‘s sophomore effort picks up stylistically where his debut Piercing I left off; he delivers a bold and playful gangster story beneath which simmers social satire and a critical take on the constricting hold of capitalism. There are shades of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, No Country For Old Men (right down to a certain execution method), and some strong Tarantino-like flourishes throughout. Crucially though, these comparisons and the satirical elements never detract from the distinctive, bizarrely intoxicating hand-drawn visuals. It’s rare to see Chinese independent animation on the big screen – don’t miss out.
Hao Ji Le (Have A Nice Day) | Directed by Liu Jian (China, 2017). Starts February 07.
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