GUILTY OF MIND (2017) review

p24577387562017 saw the release of two competing adaptations of best-sellers by Lei Mi, a teacher of criminal law whose popular character, the gifted criminal profiler Fang Mu, had already been brought to the small in screen in 2015 and 2016. Xie Dongshen’s Guilty of Mind was released first and would go on to win the box-office battle (though not by much) over Xu Jizhou’s The Liquidator. However, with both films adapted from different books in the series, they’re not so much competing as completing each other: Guilty of Mind features a young Fang Mu, still in Police School, while The Liquidator has him weathered and semi-retired; and Lei Mi’s pulpy, lurid brand of thriller is faithfully rendered onscreen in both films. Here, dogged, bitter cop Tai Wei (Liao Fan) is on the trail of a vampiric serial killer, who drains his victims of their blood and then drinks it. In an investigative dead end, Tai turns to his mentor Qiao (Chang Kuo Chu), who recommends one his best students to him: Fang Mu (Li Yifeng), a young aspiring police officer, socially awkward but gifted with an uncanny ability to instinctively profile murderers and get in their shoes. Tai is sceptical, but soon the investigation is making strides.

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ANIMAL WORLD (2018) review

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Adapted – and transposed to China – from Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s manga Ultimate Survivor Kaiji, Han Yan’s Animal World follows Kaisi (Li Yifeng), a young man adrift: ever since his father was killed when he was 8, he’s had violent urges and visions of himself as a clown – and of the people around him as grotesque monsters. He cares for his mother who is in a coma, but neglects his girlfriend Qing (Zhou Dongyu), a nurse who refuses to give up on him. Riddled with debts after a childhood friend coaxed him into a failed real estate scheme, Kaisi is approached by Anderson (Michael Douglas), a mysterious and powerful man who offers him a chance to write off his debt, and possibly make a lot of money, by joining dozens of players on the ship Destiny. There, the players have to engage in an elaborate game of ‘rock-paper-scissors’, with very specific rules but no ban on cheating, and a dire fate for the many who lose the game, while rich men watch and take gambles of their own.

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THE FOUNDING OF AN ARMY (2017) review

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After Han Sanping and Huang Jianxin’s The Founding of an Army and The Founding of a Party, what we like to call “the PRCCU” (People’s Republic of China cinematic universe) gets a third installment with Andrew Lau’s The Founding of an Army, which is backed by no less than forty-six credited producers, and more importantly, by the Chinese state. And so in solemn commemoration of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, ninety years ago, Chinese audiences have been treated to yet another round of episodic, star-studded, title card-ridden, speech-happy propaganda, again with Liu Ye as the charismatic, statuesque, handsome, saintly, selfless, farseeing, and most of all, deeply, deeply humanistic Mao Zedong (note that our use of irony here is about as heavy-handed as the film’s approach to history).

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