VOD film review: Have a Nice Day
Mike Williams | On 24, Mar 2018
Director: Jian Liu
Cast: Changlong Zhu, Kai Cao, Jian Liu
Watch Have a Nice Day online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent)
Have a Nice Day is an interesting-looking Chinese animation, with something worth extracting, as audiences unravel and delve into its dry and often morbid sensibility. The only problem is you’ll have to look hard to see its nuance and have the patience of a saint while doing so.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jian Liu – the film’s writer, director, producer, and animator – you won’t have a clue as to the tone of this Chinese crime thriller (of sorts), although, in truth, it’s probably best to go in as uninformed as possible. In a runtime that barely spans 75 minutes, ambition levels are always raised to see if a competent feature can be squeezed into such a modest runtime. And, in some ways, Have a Nice Day achieves what it sets out to do: evoke response to an occasionally violent, bloody, and often coincidental film that reeks of Quentin Tarantino.
The plot’s pretty simple: a big bag of cash containing 1 million yuan is up for grabs in a southern Chinese city, drawing a variety of aspiring, shady, and out-right greedy types towards it. It’s the script’s reliance on western pop culture – whether it be references to subtle things, such as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, or the 2016 presidential election – that gives Have a Nice Day a Tarantinoesque take on quirky cinema, yet doesn’t get anywhere near the point of recreating familiar-feeling moments in classics like Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction.
However, Have a Nice Day isn’t merely attempting to pay homage to America: it’s laced with its own subtexts, in some instances displaying an existential crisis some characters appear to be going through – touching on religion, societal, and class issues with the array of its involved inhabitants and their reaction to knowing there’s a quick buck to be made. It’s this bag of swag that serves as the overarching plot’s McGuffin. As more and more characters from different factions or walks of life seek said wayward cash that’s floating around and apparently unclaimed, we’re pessimistically certain none of them will end up with it – or, if they do, it’ll be at the expense of their physical health and a firm test of their mortality.
With strong gangster and crime-based plot threads co-existing and crossing over from time to time, you’d assume the pacing would be a little sprightlier. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Liu slows things right down to something even The Godfather fans would find too ponderous. That said, for some parts, the dialogue and coincidental crossovers work well – the problem is the film gets distracted by itself. In an odd way, the slow, methodical storytelling sucks a lot of life out a story that must work even harder to convince with its animation, which, it must be said, has a pleasant and simple style.
While Have a Nice Day no doubt has its moments, the way it plods through act two is often mind-numbing. It’s slow to the point of annoyance and, as a result, makes the film feel boring and unsure of itself. Perhaps Liu becomes too encumbered by his own material. Perhaps it’s a conscious decision to actively indulge without constraint. The result is, around the halfway mark, a very random few minutes (which feel a lot longer) featuring the ocean – live footage or nothing more than waves – that ironically sum up how lost at sea the film gets in its own muddled ideas.