THE BLIZZARD (2018) short review

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Jiang Kaiyang’s The Blizzard follows Song Chao (Nie Yuan) and Liu Haiyang (Tan Kai), best friends turned enemies: after being kicked out of the police academy where they were both being trained in Harbin, Song murdered Liu’s father for mysterious reasons, and Liu – now a police detective – has had only revenge on his mind ever since. One day, Song reappears, lured out of hiding to rescue a friend who was kidnapped by a local mobster; Liu is ready to bring him to justice, but he doesn’t realize that the murder of his father is part of a deep conspiracy, and Song may not be the real culprit… Add a thick layer of snow to it, and a solid yet unremarkable thriller can take on an atmospheric, unforgiving edge. Such is the case with The Blizzard, which starts promisingly enough with several intriguing plot strands, but then fails to combine them in a compelling way, with plot turns either thuddingly predictable, or simply ludicrous, and a surfeit of thinly-written characters that enter the story without proper introductions and exit it as loose ends (which works for ‘slice of life’ drama but not for action thrillers). Yet thanks to the aforementioned snow draping stark Harbin cityscapes and classily captured by Korean cinematographer Kim Gitae (2012’s Confession of Murder), strong performances by Nie Yuan (impressively intense) and Tan Kai (engagingly rugged), and a few raw, Korean-style brawls choreographed by Kim Shin Woong (2015’s The Throne), The Blizzard remains an efficient little thriller. **1/2

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GOLDEN JOB (2018) review

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After a cameo in Da Peng’s Jianbing Man (2015) and a successful concert tour seemed to indicate the audience was ready for more of the Young and Dangerous quartet of Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Jerry Lamb, Michael Tse, here they are reunited for a whole film, for the first time in 20 years, since 1998’s Young and Dangerous 5. Their co-star in the latter film, Chin Ka Lok, here directs, choreographs the action and co-stars again. While Jason Chu, an original member of the Young and Dangerous gang, is nowhere to be seen, he will indeed star with Jordan Chan, Jerry Lamb and Michael Tse – but without Ekin Cheng – in Wilson Chin action thriller The Lonely War, while Ekin Cheng, Michael Tse and Jerry Lamb will appear together – without Jordan Chan and Jason Chu – in Lv Kejing’s fantasy thriller Love Illusion in late 2018. Do keep up, our point is that Golden Job is a rare alignment of stars.

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REBORN (2018) short review

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Li Hailong’s cyber caper Reborn follows Li Haoming (Han Geng), a hopelessly awkward gamer who used to be a brilliant hacker, but now spends his life playing VR games. Until one day, he’s approached by mercenary Fei Qiao (Rhydian Vaughan) and his partner and lover Su Yi (Li Yuan), who require his unique hacking skills to complete a lucrative mission for shady businessman Takeshi Mori (Tomohisa Yamashita). Soon after, Li is contacted by Hong Kong detective Chow (Liu Kai Chi) who’s on a mission to arrest Fai Qiao, and needs the young hacker to be his informant. The script is low on originality and tension but full of shortcuts (there’s no problem that can’t be solved by hacking into this or that from a phone, at any moment), ludicrous twists (a whole segment of the film is revealed to actually have been an elaborate virtual reality simulation) and loose ends (Liu Kai Chi’s character disappears halfway through, with no resolution of his subplot whatsoever). The action is mediocre, a series of fights where over-editing masks the actor’s lack of fighting ability, and flatly-shot chases. And the cast is either cringe-worthy (Han Geng and Li Yuan play their respective characters like idiotic school kids) or criminally bland (Rhydian Vaughan smirks mysteriously and boringly, Tomohisa Yamashita is an ectoplasm). And with its sensory overload of technology, Reborn already feels dated, the year of its release. *