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
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.
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.
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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