Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bodies at Rest gets the 43rd Hong Kong International Film Festival off to an action-packed start (Film review)

The director and Hong Kong-based actors before the screening of 
the 43rd Hong Kong International Film Festival's Opening Film

Renny Harlin, Nick Cheung and Richie Jen at 
the world premiere of Bodies at Rest

Bodies at Rest (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2019)
- From the Hong Kong International Film Festival's Gala Presentation program
- Renny Harlin, director
- Starring: Nick Cheung, Richie Jen, Yang Zi, Feng Jiayi, Carlos Chan

After going without a local Opening Film last year, the 43rd edition of the Hong Kong International Film Festival revived the tradition of having a film with Hong Kong representation open the fest; albeit one, in this case, that's a co-production with Mainland China and has as its helmer a Finnish director best known for his Hollywood hits like Die Hard 2 (1990) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).  These days though, Renny Harlin divides his time between Beijing and Hong Kong -- and while there are Hollywood-ish notes in his latest offering, Bodies at Rest also brings to mind Hong Kong actioners from the last decades of the past century (and rivals Jackie Chan's Police Story (1985) in terms of the amount of glass shattered in its action scenes!).

Before the screening last night at which I was present, co-star Richie Jen promised the assembled audience that they would be watching a super fight-packed movie.  And although Bodies at Rest begins in a quiet morgue with far more dead bodies in it than live ones, forensic pathologist Nick Chan (Nick Cheung), intern Lynn (Yang Zi) and security guard Uncle King (Ma Shuliang) soon find their Christmas Eve graveyard shift being filled with far more excitement, chaos, major trouble and action than they could have ever anticipated.

On that dark and stormy -- black rain, in fact! -- night, three masked men go into the facility to demand access to a body of a young woman with a bullet in her whose identification will put them in grave danger.  They may wear Yuletide-themed masks and refer to themselves as Santa (Richie Jen), Rudolf (Feng Jiayi) and Elf (Carlos Chan) but they are armed and definitely not in the mood to dispense seasonal cheer and goodwill.

Especially after Uncle King's attempt at a joke results in his getting a bullet in the head, Nick and Lynn realize that their lives are very much in danger.  Appreciating too that the item sought by the villains represents a chip with which to bargain for their safety, the two of them try their damnest to ensure that it doesn't fall into hands of their trio of antagonists even if they can't escape themselves.

Clocking in at a lean 94 minutes in total length, Bodies at Rest feels like it's missing at least one key explanatory scene that would help its audience understand how the film's forensic expert lead character could also be the masterful detective his actions show him to be as the story unfolds.  This eventful actioner also is one of those movies whose viewers have to believe that apparently regular humans are able to function pretty well after looking to have been pretty badly beaten up and painfully injured.    

Even while my brain was registering that the film contains a number of illogical elements though, I could feel adrenaline rushing through me in a thoroughly enjoyable way for much of the screening.  Renny Harlin's direction in spot on with regards to such as pacing, action director Sam Wong staged some seriously exciting scenes and cinematographer Anthony Pun captured much of the action really well.  The cast also helped to suitably entertain by proving able at pulling off both the dramatic and action demands of their characters; with established stars Nick Cheung and Richie Jen being very on their game while Yang Zi proved to be quite the revelation in her role as a gutsy damsel able to take and also dispense a surprising amount of knocks and setbacks.   

My rating for this film: 8.0    

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