Kill Me Please
China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 97 mins.
Director: Wang Dan 王丹.
Black caper comedy, set in Thailand, doesn’t run out of puff and stays within its modest limits.
China, the present day. After learning he has terminal cancer, and being told by his wife, tour guide Yang Xiaonan (Yu Shasha), that she’s taking a group to Thailand as they need some time apart, loser Meng Dawei (Wang Xun), 35, prepares to jump off a building. Just as he’s about to, he’s cold-called by an insurance company and ends up taking out a policy in his wife’s favour covering his accidental death. Arriving in Bangkok, he tries to meet Yang Xiaonan to explain what he’s done but ends up at the wrong address. Nostalgically, he takes the same room in the same hotel where they once both spent happier times and tries to “accidentally” electrocute himself but fails. Wandering into the seedy Killers Bar, he tries Russian Roulette but again fails to kill himself accidentally; however, the owner recommends a professional assassin, Bryan (Gim Seong-ju), who arranges an accidental death for him on a train the following afternoon. On the same train, however, is the gangster Snake (Zhao Yingjun), disguised as a woman, who is handing back some documents he’s stolen from his former boss, crimelord Shark (Zeng Zhiwei), for US$1 million. When Meng Dawei, thinking he’s spotted Yang Xiaonan, unexpectedly jumps off the train, chaos breaks out. Snake is shot dead by Shark’s men, led by his trusted aide Hui (Lu Huiguang), and the documents end up in the hands of two incompetent hoodlums from Henan, Long Da (Liang Chao) and Long Er (Pan Binlong), who joined Yang Xiaonan’s tour group as a cover for doing some dodgy business in Bangkok. Shark is under pressure to retrieve the documents, which then end up by chance in the possession of Meng Dawei, who’s made another appointment with Bryan for an “accidental” death. But that, and subsequent attempts, all go awry.
A loser who’s just heard he has terminal cancer finds it harder than expected to arrange his own “accidental” death in Kill Me Please 这就是命, an action comedy set in Bangkok that’s a good showcase for goofy Mainland comic Wang Xun 王迅, in his first leading role. Produced by Hong Kong veteran Zeng Zhiwei 曾志伟 [Eric Tsang], who also hams it up as a local crimelord, the one-cockup-leads-to-another black comedy is smoothly packaged by Mainland writer-director Wang Dan 王丹, in only his second theatrical feature after the routine high-school comedy All about Puberty 纯纯欲动 (2014). Insured with a cast of Mainland comedy characters, and plenty of jokes about Thai ladyboys, Kill Me doesn’t aim far above the belly but, unlike some complexly plotted capers, doesn’t run out of puff and lets its cast occasionally have some space. The result clocked up a modest, but profitable, RMB54 million in the Mainland.
Last seen behind a lot of prosthetics as wise old Ape Man in Legend of the Naga Pearls 鲛珠传 (2017), and before that as the hopeless, panicky son-in-law in What a Wonderful Family 麻烦家族 (2017), Chengdu-born Wang, 43, has sometimes been among the most memorable things in others’ movies – such as the smoothly corrupt businessman in Once Upon a Time in the Northeast 东北往事 破马张飞 (2016) – as well as a familiar background face in comedies since Crazy Stone 疯狂的石头 and Big Movie 大电影之数百亿 (both 2006). In his first starring role, he’s sensibly not over-stretched, playing a familiar loser figure and surrounded by reliable talent with whom he shares screen time rather than tries to dominate. Amid all the elaborate hi-jinks, the funniest sequence is actually low on physical comedy, with Wang and Zeng riffing on their characters as the former goes over the top (“an accident! an accident!”) and the latter is reduced for once to speechlessness.
Among the others, Liang Chao 梁超 and Pan Binlong 潘斌龙 are initially annoying as two incompetent Henan hoodlums but become more bearable (especially Liang) as they’re drawn into the main plot. Musician-comedian Zhao Yingjun 赵英俊, another regular goofy presence, spends most of his time disguised as a woman before being blown sky high, while South Korean boybander Gim Seong-ju 김성주 | 金圣柱 (who’s contracted to one of the film’s financiers, Yue Hua Entertainment) is suitably exotic as the cool but stymied assassin. In the only substantial female role, TV actress-presenter Yu Shasha 于莎莎 is fine as the initially short-tempered but later sympathetic wife, though it’s actress Huang Xiaolei 黄小蕾 who has the most memorable scene in a cameo with singer Guan Zhe 关喆 as two randy hotel guests.
Technically, the film is proficient, with careful set-ups and use of slightly exaggerated lenses in interiors by seasoned Hong Kong d.p. Ke Xingpei 柯星沛 [O Sing-pui] (Ip Man 叶问, 2008; Gallants 打擂台, 2010) that underscore the irreality. Action is okay without dominating the film, though the warehouse finale is weakly choreographed and the plot’s resolution is over-bitty. They’re small flaws, however, in a generally likeable movie whose plot may not be entirely original (see Aki Kaurismäki’s I Hired a Contract Killer, 1990, for starters) but which knows its limits and operates within them. The Chinese title means “This Is Life”. In a nice touch, popular comic actor Huang Bo 黄渤, with whom Wang has made several films, sings the end-title song.
Presented by Beijing Yue Hua Entertainment (CN), Beijing Ledong Leting Culture Media (CN), Beijing Shan’ai Technology (CN). Produced by Yuedong Flower Pictures (CN).
Script: Wang Dan, Wang Jing, Li Chao. Adaptation: Zhang Jing, Li Bolin, Du Kang, Zhao Chendong, Yuan Jinhong. Photography: Ke Xingpei [O Sing-pui] (Thailand), Deng Liguang (Chengdu). Editing: Du Yuan. Music production: Xu Haoke, Dong Yingda. End-title song music/lyrics: Zhao Yingjun. Vocals: Huang Bo. Production design: Li Jingwen. Art direction: Kasi Faengrod (Thailand), Guo Jiang (Chengdu). Costumes: Nirachara Wannalai. Styling: Li Minjian. Sound: Xie Yaoji, Cheng Xiaolong. Action: Song Chongguo, Li Hao. Visual effects: Ren Jingjing, Sun Wei (Hezhong Group). Executive direction: Song Chongguo.
Cast: Wang Xun (Meng Dawei), Zeng Zhiwei [Eric Tsang] (Shayu/Shark), Liang Chao (Long Da), Pan Binlong (Long Er), Yu Shasha (Yang Xiaonan), Zhao Yingjun (Snake), Lu Huiguang [Ken Lo] (Hui), Gim Seong-ju (Bryan), Huang Xiaolei (Olivia, woman in room 1602), Guan Zhe (Jack, man in room 1602), Liu Yin (female bodyguard), Jin Liang (male bodyguard), Wei Huanhuan (female bodyguard), Jiu Kong [Lv Kongwei] (doctor), Feng Jiamei (nurse), Maythavee Weiss (female bodyguard), Chen Jer Lee (hotel manager), Keawjai Kitatonnithi, Bongkotrat Sopha (hotel receptionists), Chayanan Klanketwit (ladyboy in toilet), Ornpailin Klongboon (ladyboy), Jutanas Saikaew (sexy girl), Huang Bo (end-title singer).
Release: China, 1 Dec 2017.