Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Liquidator

Fair warning: I may be judging this film too harshly in part because I missed a lot of dialogue in roughly the first twenty minutes. For all that I see a lot of complaints that AMC Boston Common doesn't matte their screens properly, they did here, both on the projector and by putting curtains up in front of the screen. The trouble was, the subtitles were apparently formatted for a 1.85:1 film rather than a 2.39:1, which meant that while the Chinese-language titles were readable, the English-language ones were cut off so you could only see the top few pixels, which can make the dialogue hard to extrapolate. I ran out to tell the usher during the opening credits, got back in time for the film proper to start, but it took another ten minutes or so for the projector to reset and the curtain to drop.

So, uh, sorry everybody about that - I normally support having films properly matted as much as any of you, but I gotta be able to follow the story. Also, I know this was only the third show, and maybe the first where it was a problem since it's sharing a screen, but, c'mon, am I really the only non-Chinese person in the Boston area seeing these movies? No-one else felt the need to bring it up? I know this one isn't very good, but c'mon!

On top of that, I kind of wonder if I would have seen this differently if Guilty of Mind had played Boston back in August. Different actors playing all the parts, but at least when this one mentioned Fang Mu, I would have been ready for what was coming.

Xin Li Zui Zhi Cheng Shi Zhi Guang (The Liquidator)

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen on 30 December 2017 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, DCP)

I suspect that most of us outside China will start The Liquidator with a little bit of a misapprehension - not being familiar with novelist Lei Mi's "Evil Minds" novels (this film is based on City of Light), we'll see the opening bits, presume that the two Jiangbin City cops introduced are going to be roughly equal partners, and then be disappointed when it turns out not to be the case - the focus shifts to one character rather drastically. Maybe knowing that Fang Mu is the main character of the series shifts expectations somewhat, although it still gets kind of rough taking that into account.

It opens with detective Mi Nan (Ceclia Liu Shishi) chasing one suspect down and then investigating a bizarre crime scene, one which appears to fit into the pattern of a serial killer murdering some of the city's most despised people. That sort of pathology gets her referred to Fang Mu (Deng Chao), a former cop now employed as a criminal psychologist. He soon discovers that the killer, who calls himself "Light of the City" and has begun soliciting public opinion on message boards, is signing his crime scenes in ways that point directly at Fang Mu. And it's got to be more than a coincidence that, when he starts looking up old classmates, Jiang Ya (Ethan Juan Ching-tien) has already formed a connection with Fang's foster daughter Liao Yafan ("Vicky" Chen Wen Qi)?

That screenwriter/director Xu Jizhou introduces Mi Nan first and then spends the rest of the movie aggressively sidelining her is not just a peculiar choice, it's one that is executed in such a way as to make a viewer wonder why she was even in the movie in the first place. Introduced as the sort of sleek, determined lady cop who can run down a fleeing suspect every bit as well as her male peers that one expects to see in Hong Kong action movies more than mainland thrillers, she is also supposedly a forensics expert, but it's not long before Fang Mu is not just complementing her skill set but doing all of her jobs better than she does. It's frustrating to watch; Liu Shishi delivers a charismatic performance and the former dancer makes action work at least as well as anybody else in the film, but she's reduced from an active participant to the Watson that the resident genius explains things (with a bit of implied opposites-attract romantic chemistry) to barely present.

Full review at EFC

No comments: