LOST, FOUND (2018) review

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Lv Yue’s Lost, Found is a Chinese take on Hong Eun-mi’s script to the 2016 thriller Missing Woman, directed by Lee Eon-hie. As explained in Derek Elley’s review of the film, the rights to the script were bought before the South-Korean version was even shot – and thus it is not a remake per se. It follows Li Jie (Yao Chen), a ruthless lawyer who has little time for her two-year-old daughter Duo Duo, but is nevertheless fighting for her custody in the aftermath of a divorce from Tian Ning (Yuan Wenkuang). But one day, Duo Duo goes missing, and Li Jie is convinced that she’s been kidnapped by her nanny Sun Fang (Ma Yili), a self-effacing country girl. Increasingly desperate as the police’s chances to find her daughter dwindle by the hour, Li Jie goes on a frantic search for clues as to Sun Fang’s whereabouts, discovering her painful, storied past in the process.

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A COOL FISH (2018) review

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A sleeper hit in China, Rao Xiaozhi’s A Cool Fish interlocks narratives as we follow Cobra (Zhang Yu) and Big Head (Pan Binlong), two hapless criminals who rob a cellphone shop with a stolen gun, run away on a motorbike without knowing the phones they’ve stolen are just non-functioning models for show, and then must keep running away on foot after when their motorbike ends up in a tree due to a clumsy maneuver. They end up in the appartment of Jiaqi (Ren Suxi), a quadriplegic who has given up on life, and is thus not impressed by their attempts at intimidation. Meanwhile, Jiaqi’s brother Xianyong (Chen Jianbin), who was fired from the police and now works as a security guard for property developer Gao Ming (Wang Yanhui), sets off to find his lost shotgun, which is none other than the one used by Cobra and Big Head in their attempt at a robbery. And Xianyong’s daughter, who harbors a world of resentment against him, is trying to cool down her boyfriend Xiang (Ning Huanyu), the son of Gao Ming, who wants to go up against the loan sharks who are threatening his father.

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L STORM (2018) review

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Who could have predicted that David Lam’s modestly-successful financial thriller Z Storm would open the way to a full-blown franchise, yielding four installments in 5 years? In 2016, S Storm doubled its predecessor’s box-office take, before seeing its own financial success doubled by this year’s L Storm. And P Storm will come out in late 2019. Here, Louis Koo is back as William Luk, the handsome ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) agent who looks bored even when he’s chasing a perp down an obstacle-strewn alleyway. Back from S Storm is Lau Po Keung (Julian Cheung) of the JFIU (Joint Financial Intelligence Unit): together, Luk and Lau investigate a money laundering case involving a corrupt customs officer (Michael Tse) and a dangerous criminal mastermind (Patrick Tam). Meanwhile, officer Ching Tak Ming (Kevin Cheng), of the ICAC’s own internal affairs division, has his sights set on Luk, after it is revealed by an informant (Stephy Tang) that he accepted a sizable bribe.

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THE TRADING FLOOR (2018) TV review

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An ambitious mini-series co-produced by FOX, Tencent Penguin and Andy Lau’s Focus Television Group, The Trading Floor was created by Cora Yim and is a rare five-part mini-series in a part of the world where all popular TV dramas count dozens of episodes. It takes place in a fictional version of Hong Kong called Coen City, and follows Anthony Yip (Francis Ng), a former economics teacher turned Secretary of the Minister of Economic Development. Twenty years ago, he created an elite financial team including also Pamela Cheung (Maggie Cheung Ho Yee), Nick Cheuk (Patrick Tam) and Wai Hong (Joseph Chang); but years after working with them to avoid a financial tsunami caused by George Soros in 1997, Yip betrayed his team to obtain more power and a government position. Cheung was killed, Cheuk crippled and Wai exiled to Myanmar. Now having struck an alliance with three financial giants, Eastman Properties, Evergate Construction Materials and Marco Media, in a bid for market manipulation and dominance, Yip calls back Wai from his Burmese exile to help them. But Wai has vengeance on his mind, while Claudia Fang (Yu Nan), an agent from the Securities & Futures Commission, has set her sights on him.

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DREAM BREAKER (2018) review

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While investigating the mysterious disappearance fifteen years before of her father (Tong Dawei), a pioneer in virtual reality, Jiang Han (Chen Duling) finds herself trapped in Souldream, an illegal and dangerous VR game he designed, where players can fight one another for points which allow them to indulge their desires. There, she’s helped by Nan Ji (Song Weilong), an expert player who is himself on the trail of his uncle (Archie Kao). Directed by Han Yan (not the Han Yan who helmed Go Away Mr Tumor and Animal World, mind you), Dream Breaker benefited from the artistic input of visionary, subversive Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono, though it only shows in a few visions of kooky, gaudy chaos.

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THE TROUGH (2018) review

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Nick Cheung’s third film as a director and star, The Trough follows Yu Qiu (Cheung), a cop who’s been undercover so long in the gangs of the fictional Solo City, that his mind is starting to slip: he’s developing a death wish, the limit between the Law and Crime has been blurred out, and between two missions he goes to live as a hermit in the Namibian desert, fighting wild animals. Solo City is a degenerate, crime-riddled sewer, and there’s no shortage of mob bosses for him to take down, under the orders of his handler Jim (He Jiong), a lone man of honor assisted by hacker Jackie (Yu Nan) but surrounded by dirty cops (including Maggie Cheung Ho Yee and Chris Collins). Yu Qiu’s new mission is to unmask and bring down “The Boss”, the hidden mastermind who controls Solo City; and the key to bring him down may be a little girl (Li Yongshan), who was plucked from an orphanage for mysterious reasons, and is now wanted by dirty cops and half the city’s gangsters alike.

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EUROPE RAIDERS (2018) review

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13 years isn’t such a long time for a sequel to arrive, considering Rambo came back after 19 years, Blade Runner after 25 years, and Mad Max after 29. Yet 13 years feels like eons for the sequel to such fluff as Tokyo Raiders and Seoul Raiders to turn up. Not in terms of anticipation, mind you. Tokyo and Seoul were mildly entertaining but quite unmemorable, and haven’t really aged well. Still, they benefitted from attractive casts gathered around the considerable charm of Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Surprisingly, Leung returns for Europe Raiders, despite having become more rare in recent years – perhaps Wong Kar Wai’s role as a producer helped a bit, or perhaps he just wants to have fun: after all, he also appeared in Monster Hunt 2 this year.

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LAST LETTER (2018) review

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23 years after Love Letter, Shunji Iwai makes his Chinese-language debut, produced by Peter Chan, with Last Letter, a variation on the same themes of ill-fated romance, missed opportunities and epistolary bonding and healing – and he’s actually already at work on a Japanese remake. Zhihua (Zhou Xun) just lost her sister Zhinan, and is taking care of her niece Mumu (Deng Enxi) and nephew Chenchen. When she attends a high school reunion instead of her sister, to announce her death to her former classmates, she doesn’t find the right moment to do so, and is at a loss when Yin Chuan (Qin Hao) reconnects with her: she used to be in love with him, but he was in love with Zhinan, and now he is mistaking her for her sister. Yet rather than clarifying the situation, she starts sending him letters, thus reviving countless memories of the past, while her own daughter Saran (Zhang Zifeng) and Mumu get in on the correspondence, by a twist of fate. Soon there are revelations, some arriving too late.

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THE BIG CALL (2017) review

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Ding Xiaotian (Cheney Chen) is a young cop who just witnessed his former teacher commit suicide after losing all his money to a phone scam. The case is thus personal, and soon Ding is recruited by Tan Sirong (Eddie Cheung) of the ATFC (Anti-Telecommunication Fraud Centre) to help expose two master fraudsters, Lin Ahai (Joseph Chang) and Liu Lifang (Gwei Lun Mei), who operate a vast fraud network across Southeast Asia, with headquarters and call center in Thailand. ATFC agent Xu Xiaotu (Jiang Mengjie), who’s also Ding’s ex-girlfriend, has infiltrated these headquarters, and as the noose tightens around the fraudsters, suspicion from Liu falls on her.

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FLY BY NIGHT (2018) review

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In Zahir Omar’s directing debut Fly By Night, which premiered in Busan last month, Sunny Pang plays Tailo, a taxi driver who runs an extortion operation, targeting well-off people for blackmail out of a Kuala Lumpur airport. He’s helped by dour right-hand man Ah Soon (Eric Chen), as well as his ambitious but rash younger brother Sailo (Fabian Loo) and his dim-witted friend Gwailo (Jack Tan). It’s a well-oiled but cautious and modest operation, and Sailo is chomping at the bit to get to higher-paying jobs. Soon, all threatens to go to hell: ruthless inspector Kamal (Bront Palarae) is set off on the four extortionists’ trail, Sailo and Gwailo bite off more than they can chew when they try to blackmail the mistress (Joyce Harn) of a rich businessman, all the while ratcheting up a sizeable debt with demented mobster Jared (Frederick Lee) after killing a man by mistake at his underground casino. With an ailing mother, a wife and a kid to protect, Tailo is left scrambling to avoid the worst.

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