Sunday, December 30, 2018

Kill Mobile

Well, give this movie a perverse sort of credit: By being not very good and changing things up in order to (presumably) make the Chinese censors happy, it threw a monkey wrench into my plans to self-plagiarize for my reviews of the various versions of Perfect Strangers, and I had to do more than a rewrite to talk about just how this film was weaker.

The kind of ironic thing is that, while this particular version was bowlderized to satisfy Chinese content standards, the easiest path to watching the original is a region A Blu-ray from… Hong Kong. A reminder that things are apparently different in the SAR, I guess, and how weird the situation with this movie is. Also maybe not ironic but odd is that this Chinese version has the same distributor as the Korean version (with Chinese subtitles) that just played North American in November.

Ah, well. Two weeks until the Mexican version hits.

Shoujikuang xiang (Kill Mobile)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 December 2018 in AMC Boston Common #14 (first-run, DCP)

Kill Mobile arrives in theaters roughly a month and a half after Intimate Strangers, the Korean remake of the Italian film Perfect Strangers, and about one month before the Mexican version, with at least half a dozen other adaptations of this highly-franchisble story either already completed and released or in production around the world. I suspect, when all of them are lined up next to each other, this Chinese version will be among the lesser entries; between censorship and general timidity, it lacks what made at least the Korean version a piercing black comedy.

Wen Bo (Tian Yu) and Dai Dai (Dai Lele) are hosting a nice little dinner party with some longtime friends: Married couple Wu Xioajiang (Qiao Shan) and his wife Li Nan (Huo Siyan), who are leaving their kids at home with Xiaojiang's mother; screenwriter Jia Di (Tong Dawei) and pretty young fiancee Bai Xuejiao (Xi Mengyao); and the currently single Han Xiao (Ma Li), who seemed alarmingly ready to skip the dinner and the rest of her life before getting a reminder on her mobile phone. Addiction to those devices comes up as a topic of conversation, and psychologist Dai Dai suggests an experiment - they leave their phones on the table so that everyone can see all the messages and notifications, and calls get answered on speaker.

It's easy to see why the makers of the original film hae been able to so successfully franchise it over the past year and a half; it opens up the "friendly gathering going right to hell because something throws the equilibrium off or someone unexpected shows up" to new possibilities that don't bog things down: A text message or call can pop up, wreak some havoc, and then not hang around, unnecessarily stealing the spotlight from the characters who we're going to spend some time with. And even if you've seen another version and know some of what's coming, the execution of the jokes is often pretty good.

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