Screened recently at the Fantasia Film Festival, we saw the new film from Jian Liu “Have a Nice Day” (Hao ji le) where the saying “You never know who you work for” fits like a glove in this old school-style animated film. Using the neo-noir genre, this film brings us a story of cynicism, irony and black humor with the reminder that behind any smile and compliment, there always can be an immoral, ruthless person ready to screw you over if the price is right.
In an very ordinary day, Xiao Zhang, a low level driver that works for an small criminal in a nameles city of China, decides to steal the money from a recent job, as you might guess, his boss “Uncle Liu” decides to send “Skinny”, his most effective assassin (a Rocky fan, to boot) not only to find the money, but also to use Xiao as an example to dissuade other employees from having any more bright ideas.
The fun starts when both Xiao’s escape and Skinny’s hunt (who also works as a butcher in a Flea’s market, by the way) get complicated by a group of weird, interesting characters that one way of another have learned that someone nearby is walking around with a Million Yuan in cash (About $150, 000) and don’t want to miss the chance to grab a tax-free paycheck, no matter if they have to make a corpse or two in the way.
The plot and its development reminded me a little of films like “11:14”, “Smokin’ Aces” and “Pulp Fiction” in terms of the types of characters presented and the way their stories get linked, although unlike some of the films I mentioned before, the violence on this movie is mostly “off camera” or not very explicit. There are also in the film some monologues and reflections that would make Quentin Tarantino proud.
The story takes place in a city that clearly is on its decadence, and how the characters that we meet, tired of the cards that life has dealt them, do not think twice to commit a crime if that gives them hope to escape to a better life, being that thru plastic surgeries, fleeing to a different country, or the chance to finally start their own business. One aspect that I liked about this film was that at no time tries to justify any character’s action, nor tries to blackmail the audiences with sentimentalism or a tortured past : The characters are what they are, and it was fun to try to guess who would rise victorious in the end with the loot… I mean, IF there was a winner.
“Have a nice day” is a Chinese film animated by Le-Joy Animation Studio, that could feel limited in terms of character’s design, backgrounds and movement’s fluidity, but I am sure that won’t be a problem to those that grew up watching cartoons like “Beavis and Butt-head”, “Tom Goes To The Mayor” and other shows from the Adult Swim section in the Cartoon Network, nor will stop us from enjoying the story. I dare to say that the way the film is animated gives the story a very unique feel that could easily turn this into a cult film, or maybe with time, Le-joy Studio will be honing their style and esthetics like it was the case for the films by Yeon Sang-ho (“The King of Pigs”, “The Fake”, “Seoul Station” and the recently shown on Fantasia Film Festival “The Senior Class”).
Another cool aspect of the film that I enjoyed was the music and the way it was used thru the story. I liked a lot the themes “dark HORSE” by The Shanghai Restoration Project that runs thru the opening credits, and “laboRATory” that can be heard in a sort of intermission. There is also a very WTF musical segment around the middle of the film that kind of took me out of the mood, but later I surprised myself humming the tune, so I guess it delivered in its purpose of making an impression and being remembered. I am sure that theme heard thru the end credits will be liked by a lot people, if you want to hear this OST, it is already available on Spotify.
In conclusion, “Have A Nice Day”, directed and written by Jian Liu (Piercing I) is a film that I HIGHLY recommend. Try to see beyond the animation and the character’s design ( I insist, you will accept it in a matter of minutes), you won’t regret it.
Fantasia Film Festival is on its 21th edition, and has always been know for showing some of the best films in the Fantasy, Horror and Sci-Fi genres, currently running thru August 3rd. You can visit their official website to see more of the great material they are showing this year, and follow them in social media.