HAVE A NICE DAY (Hao ji le)


Chinese director Liu Jian's latest animated film is an apparent nod to American filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers with plenty of Western references to appeal to American audiences.


This is not one of those richly colored Asian animated films nor flashy anime toons, but a deeply textured but muted, dark film that makes editorial of modern day China. No rice paddies or pagoda backgrounds, but instead dreary and bleek sets in construction sites and dank slums.

The crime story is set the same day Donald Trump wins the election, we hear his victory speech in the background while the lead bad guy, Uncle Liu (Siming Yang) torturing a onetime childhood friend who has since become an artist. It's not clear why he is torturing him, but clearly he detests the guys artistic abilities. He is interrupted by a call that a bag of his money !-million yuan ($150,000) has been stolen from his courier by a young man Xiao Zhang (Changlong Zhu); he plans on taking his girlfriend to Korea for some corrective plastic surgery.


He assigns one of his henchmen Skinny (Xiaofeng Ma) to retrieve the bag. In the meantime the bag has already been stolen from the thief by a master inventor named Yellow Eye (Kou Cao) who plans on using the money to begin his own tech company.


The characters chasing the money reminds you of Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" or the Coen Brothers' "Fargo". Subtle symbolic nods to Western culture includes a Rocky poster and quotes from Steve Jobs. Look for a rocket streaking across the sky which notes the launching of Chinese LM-11 rockets with satellites during Trumps speech.


With this film Liu takes a big step in creating an animation that plays more like a dark live action film. The detail of an industrialized background is offset by basic character motion. The films violent nature is therefore muted along with the colors. Yet there is an odd depth to each shot.


With a run-time of 77-minutes, Liu wastes little time developing or explaining characters as the action progresses. So there are a few unanswered questions left to ponder.


"Have a Nice Day (Hao Ji Le)" is a well produced adult animation that moves director Jian Liu into the top tier of foreign animators. It is an entertaining editorial about modern day China and modern day Chinese crime.   -- GRADE A-  --   GEOFF BURTON