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Chinese language cinema

Film review: Peace Breaker – Aaron Kwok, Wang Qianyuan face off in Chinese remake of Korean thriller A Hard Day

Lien Yi-chi’s comedy of errors about a crooked policeman and his bad decisions gets transplanted to Kuala Lumpur, resulting in a slickly made thriller that lacks the sadism of the Korean original

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 7:44pm

2.5/5 stars

Aaron Kwok Fu-shing is having a very bad day in Peace Breaker, a remake of the 2014 Korean thriller A Hard Day. As a crooked Chinese cop on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, his character sees a series of increasingly poor decisions turn a bad situation into a farcical comedy of errors.

Already under investigation for corruption, detective Gao (Kwok) is racing to get to his mother’s funeral when his car accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian. Rather than report the crime, Gao flees the scene and hides the body, only for a mysterious witness (played by an effeminate and strangely enigmatic Wang Qianyuan) to emerge and start blackmailing him.

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One of the better black comedies to emerge from South Korea in recent years, A Hard Day succeeded by having Lee Sun-kyun’s weaselly protagonist suffer a series of escalating circumstances that he wholly brought upon himself.

That film’s morals stepped too far out of the light to make a Chinese remake seem plausible, but many of those issues are sidestepped in Peace Breaker by transplanting the action to the Malaysian capital. Directed by Taiwan’s Lien Yi-chi (Sweet Alibis), this is a slickly executed and intermittently entertaining comedy thriller, albeit lacking the sadistic Schadenfreude of its predecessor.

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While Kuala Lumpur adds little to the drama, the sheer level of corruption, extortion and general malfeasance on display – mostly from within the police force – is deemed more permissible when they unfold outside China. One of the biggest changes in the otherwise loyal remake is the addition of Zheng Kai, as a squeaky clean internal affairs investigator sent from China to weed out corruption.

Kwok, while not an especially versatile actor, has won praise for playing off-kilter detectives in films such as Port of Call (2015) and The Detective trilogy (2007-2013). Here, however, he is never allowed to be sleazy enough to convince us that Gao is anything worse than a flawed, opportunistic hero.

Peace Breaker opens on November 16

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