Film review: The Liquidator – Deng Chao plays detective in derivative Chinese crime procedural
Xu Jizhou’s diverting film about an ex-policeman returning to duty to hunt down a serial killer is marred by gaps in the plot and lack of originality
The crime procedural formula receives a slickly derivative spin in The Liquidator, adapted by Chinese writer-director Xu Jizhou from a novel in author Mi Lei’s Criminal Minds series.
Deng Chao ( The Mermaid ) plays Fang Mu, a former policeman who quit the force after he’s suspected of having something to do with the disappearance – and presumed murder – of an acquitted rapist. Now a criminal psychologist caring for the rape victim (Vicky Chen Wen-chi), Fang is summoned back when a killer begins to murder people who are demonised in public controversies, but are not punished by law.
With a fearless cop (Liu Shishi) in tow, Fang soon pins the ritual murders on Jiang Ya (Ethan Juan Ching-tien), a creepy fish shop owner who sees parallels between himself and Fang. In a twist that says more about its Western influences than the vital place of procedural justice in China’s legal system, the story’s third act focuses on the search for incriminating evidence rather than the killer’s identity.
A potentially provocative tale of vigilante violence and trial by internet, The Liquidator is nevertheless undermined by some curious lapses in its genre principles: for instance, it is never made clear how the killer manages to destroy all the forensic evidence at and around the crime scenes, an issue that the whole story is eventually made to hinge on.
While the escalating histrionics of Deng’s detective and Juan’s criminal make for often diverting viewing, regular viewers of serial killer dramas – from Se7en to all those Death Note movies – may also feel like they’ve seen it all before.
The Liquidator opens on January 4
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