One of the perks of being a reviewer is the incredible variety of films you can see. I mean if a year or two ago somebody had told me I’d be watching an adult-oriented animated gangster film from China I’d have laughed. But here I am reviewing Jian Liu’s HAVE A NICE DAY.
Xiao Zhang (Zhu Changlong) needs money. Or more accurately his girlfriend does in order to get plastic surgery to repair the damage the last plastic surgery did. In desperation, he steals a bag containing a million yuen (about 150,000 USD) belonging to mobster Uncle Liu (Yang Shiming). His day has already gotten off to a bad start.
He’s torturing an old friend for having an affair with his wife when he gets the news. He dispatches Skinny (Ma Xiaofeng) a butcher/hitman to retrieve the money. But somebody else has already stolen it from Xiao. Not that it’s the new owner is going to keep it for long either…
HAVE A NICE DAY feels like Tarantino filtered through Chinese sensibilities and animated by Mike Judge. Actually its an almost one-man show with Liu handling almost all of the production side of the film. And he’s done an excellent job, crafting a solid, if somewhat familiar tale of desperate people and tainted money. The dialogue sounds like it could have been meant for RESERVOIR DOGS or PULP FICTION at times, a nice blending of tough talk and day to day banalities. It gives the film a sense of being in the real world. Liu’s style of animation helps with this as well, it owes a lot more to KING OF THE HILL than anime.
Admittedly I’m not an expert on Chinese society but others who know better than me say that HAVE A NICE DAY is a fairly accurate depiction of industrial cities in far-flung provinces. Maybe there are some universal features of those. I can certainly see similarities between it and the somewhat remote oil town I call home these days. The greed, the desperate wanting to get enough money to go somewhere better, or at least let your kids have that chance. The dirt, the despair and of course the crime.
Whether Liu is making a comment on contemporary life in China, or just making a crime film in the popular tradition is another matter. But either way, HAVE A NICE DAY is an enjoyable watch and something out of the ordinary.
Strand Releasing will HAVE A NICE DAY screen 1/26/2018 NYC with more dates to follow.