Have a Nice Day Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Jiamei Spring Pictures
Written and directed by Jian Liu
2017, 77 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
UK theatrical release on 23rd March 2018
Kou Cao as Yellow Eye
Xiaofeng Ma as Thin Skin
Siming Yang as Uncle Liu
Changlong Zhu as Xiao Zhang
In a small Southern Chinese city, a handful of gangsters, loners and losers fight over a bag containing one million yuan. As these disparate figures grow ever more desperate and vicious, battle lines are drawn, blood is shed and there's.... uh, a karaoke musical number about Shangri-La in the middle of it all? Also, it's a cartoon, but a really ugly one.
For good reason, anyone who has watched Jian Liu's bleak crime drama thus far can't help but have noted the similarities to the early work of a certain Quentin Tarantino. Without being beholden to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction at all, this grim, moody, and darkly funny animation shares the atmosphere and sensibilities of the director's early opus, while being entirely its own thing. Have a Nice Day is a cross between the work of Tarantino, the Coen Brothers and Takashi Miike, filtered through the visuals of the BBC animated sketch show Monkey Dust.
For an animated movie, there's a noticeable lack of animation here; whether it's due to budgetary constraints or artistic decision, there's an unsettling lack of movement to the picture, as the characters thud and traipse across unmoving backgrounds and dark rooms. This is not a pretty cartoon either, and many will be put off by the ugliness, muted colours and lack of obvious invention onscreen. This just adds to the atmosphere though, and those who take the time to look closer – past the admittedly crudely drawn characters – will find the city, countryside and building interiors to be carefully etched, and full of detail. The story is slow, the action minimal – realistically, there's absolutely nothing here that couldn't have been depicted in live action. Somehow, this makes the choice to go animated even more intriguing, the story more unsettling than it might have been.
As Donald Trump barks his nonsense over the radio and regretful gangsters discuss the implications of Brexit, we visit a world not unlike our own, but with a musical break in which two characters daydream about Shangri-La (aptly, the song is also bad) and one character wields a lethal hammer with a surpise that wouldn't be out of place in a Sean Connery James Bond movie. Have a Nice Day is strange in a way one can't quite articulate. It's quietly and darkly odd; a work of cinema that isn't cinematic, animation that isn't animated. It marches to the beat of its own drum, whether you like it or not.