Sunday, January 03, 2016

Devil and Angel

Not quite my last movie of 2015, although nearly so - I decided to do this when shut out of the 4:30pm Casablanca at the Brattle. Risky move, as the 6:15pm start time would rule out the 7pm show of the other film, but I was able to get back to Harvard Square and get into the 9:30 without trouble (although there were some issues during the movie).

This was, basically, the only new release this weekend, as most of the theaters went with letting folks get to the stuff they hadn't had time for around Christmas or adding The Hateful Eight now that the Weinsteins were giving DCP projection the go-ahead. Heck, it was kind of a holdover itself, having apparently come out in China last week but being held back so that China Lion wasn't trying to get two films on-screen during a really busy week.

The audience seemed to really like it, at least, and I strongly suspect that it suffers more from me not speaking Mandarin than other comedies I've seen, because there was a lot in there that was obviously wordplay that the subtitlers couldn't make into English without breaking the pace or reconfiguring a lot of dialogue. Still, I laughed, even if it did kind of wear me out.

One thing I am curious about: Why the heck is a trailer for Lazer Team playing before every Chinese movie I see? Often times it would be the only western trailer I see with them (thought that's not the case with Devil and Angel), and it really sticks out like a sore thumb, even if in this case, it's a pretty fair match for the movie. I figure AMC just mixes all the non-"prestige" indies together, but it is really odd.

E gun tian shi (Devil and Angel)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 December 2015 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

The very first scene of Devil and Angel makes it clear what sort of broad comedy it's going to be, and it's a pretty dumb one. And it's not a dumb comedy that is secretly kind of clever; it's a dumb comedy that makes dumb jokes for more than a little too long, with surprisingly few new and bizarre characters added to the mix as the old ones get played out. That said, it's a dumb comedy whose jokes often make me laugh, and that is worth something.

The main pairing of the film is Zha Xiaodao ("Betty" Sun Li), a well-educated but socially awkward young woman who has just been fired from her job as an accountant for exposing her boss's bad practices, and Mo Feili (Deng Chao), a debt collector with a bad attitude possibly related to his extreme insomnia. When Xiaodao goes to see guru Zhe Ergen (Liang Chao), she's told to spend some time with Feili, not knowing that Zhe actually runs the business Feili works for and mostly wants her to make sure the right amount is collected because Feili is bad at math. It turns out, of course, that their first collection is from a business owned by Xiaodao's old boss (Wang Yanhui), who sics middle-manager Ji (Luan Yuanhui) and angry Russian butcher Ivanov Lazluakadoli (Xu Kejia) on them. But are they as threatening as Feili's amorous landlord "Chris" Guo Sisi (Dai Lele)?

Yeah, probably, although with Sisi comes a part of what makes the film kind of fun: The weird underground space where she, Feili, and many others live, carved out of an abandoned industrial space and managing to look cool despite seeming to come from a post-apocalyptic film more than the usual look of modern China. It's not the only spot where the filmmakers choose nifty locations and fill them with people that match - a segment set in a wax-museum warehouse with a bunch of henchmen dressed up to look like exhibits makes little sense but is fun to watch - and, indeed, the film is fairly dynamic visually for something that started life as a play, whether from well-timed slapstick to detailed environments.

Full review on EFC.

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