RUN AMUCK (2019) short review

153871c3b2bb4bb552007a5f3625c97a342031In Liu Xiao and Qin Pengfei’s highly amusing straight-to-VOD actioner Run Amuck, a successful Virtual Reality shooting game called ‘Run for your Life’ gathers dozens of contestants for a highly-publicized final game with a winning prize of 10-million RMB, under the purview of the game’s instuctor, the ‘AK Queen’ (Clara Lee). Among the competing players are Baolong (Fang Yan), the cocky number one player, known for his ‘sultry’ victory dances, but also Shen Yue, aka “The Sniper Queen” (Zhang Haoyue), his usual runner-up. Run Amuck was probably shot concurrently to Wen Zhang’s Fat Buddies, as it shares its action director (Qin Pengfei), three cast members (Clara Lee, Zhang Menglu and Jackie Li), and a key desert shooting location with the aforementioned fat-suit comedy. Regardless of this truly fascinating filmmaking tidbit, it’s a fine slice of menatally-challenged, unassuming fun, full of amusing lapses in logic (it takes places in a virtual reality but once in the game the players still need a plane to get to the location of the competition, with one character fearing the parachute drop, even though it’s unreal), effective comic relief (Jackie Li and Zhao Yan are quite fun as a pair of bickering presenters who come to blows on a regular basis), and surprisingly solid – though budget-constrained – action scenes. Overtly comical music often sullies scenes, as do misguided attempts at actual emotion, but there’s enough dimensions to each of the generously-cleavaged characters (each one having a different, real life-based reason to join the game), that there’s the minimum requirement in dramatic tension on top of the desert-set tank-and-snipers action. Living-Goddess statue Clara Lee merely bookends the film, but it’s Zhang Menglu, who after her formidable turn in Fat Buddies steals the show here as a coke-sipping clutz. A sequel is generously set up, a low-stakes yet not unwelcome prospect. **1/2

FAT BUDDIES (2018) review

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After starring in Wen Zhang’s directing debut, the passable romantic comedy When Larry met Mary, Bao Bei’er co-stars with Wen in his own directing debut, Fat Buddies, which – much like the former film – did solid but unremarkable business at the Chinese box-office. Coincidentally, it is one of two Japan-set fatsuit action comedies produced the same year in China, the other being Donnie Yen and Wong Jing’s Enter the Fat Dragon. Bao plays Hao Jingyun (an amusing game on words that sounds like he’s saying “Hello, handsome” every time he states his name to someone), a security guard at a Tokyo hospital who, having been obese most of his life, has learned to roll with the constant jokes about his weight, and at least has the love of his unfathomably attractive wife (Clara Lee). One day, Hao meets someone even fatter: J (Wen Zhang), a 150 kg reluctant patient of the hospital who says he’s on a mission to stop a drug kingpin masquerading as a philanthropist (Guo Jingfei). Sensing a kinship, Hao decides to follow J on his mission, despite the latter’s insistence on going it alone.

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