Film review: Have a Nice Day – Chinese animation a bleak crime thriller coloured by blood, greed and black humour

Liu Jian’s pared-down story of a young driver for a criminal gang who unknowingly steals money from his boss moves along at a brisk pace and is dark and entertaining, if somewhat derivative

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 2:21pm

3/5 stars

The second animated feature from Chinese writer-director Liu Jian (Piercing I), Have a Nice Day is a blood-soaked genre piece set in a dreary small town in southern China, where a bag of money sets the characters scurrying after it like demented cockroaches.

The fortune is initially stolen by a young driver named Xiao Zhang (voiced by Zhu Changlong), intent on using it to travel to South Korea to pay for repairs to his girlfriend’s botched cosmetic surgery. With hitmen, gangsters and the like all out to retrieve the cash, the plot clips along, with violent encounters seasoned by black humour.

There are plenty of contemporary references in the film, from nods to The Godfather to the sound of Donald Trump on the radio congratulating Hillary Clinton on a well-run campaign. It’s enough to firmly suggest that Liu’s universe is very much a part of our own, rather than in a one-step removed movie land.

Director of Chinese animation Have a Nice Day on bringing his lurid vision of China to the world, despite pressure from Beijing

The animator is clearly in awe of American independent filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers – the latter’s No Country for Old Men , with its similar money-grabbing plot, looms large. It’s hardly profound, with the story almost as pared-down as the low-key animation. But its depiction of a bleak, material world will resonate with viewers as much as the seedy, washed-out backdrops.

Told in a brisk 74 minutes, Have a Nice Day is a welcome change from the primary colours that dominate most Hollywood animations. It marks Liu out as a filmmaker of distinction, if not originality.

Have a Nice Day opens on January 12

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