Article by Patricia Pieterse
The weather’s heating up, which means we’re approaching blockbuster season. Here are four of the highest grossing local movies for those days when the most activity you can manage is switching on the aircon.
Xià Luò Tè Fánnáo
Based on a play by the same name, this rom com directed by Yan Fei and Peng Damo is all about the futility of regret. In a quirky intro, we meet Xia Luo (Shen Teng), who’s sent his wife Ma Dongmei (Ma Li) into a knife-wielding rage by getting a little inappropriate at an old crush’s wedding. He passes out and wakes up nearly 10 years in the past, where he sets out to fix his mistakes. It’s a classic “what-if” premise, and despite taking a weird turn in the third act, I still enjoyed this one. In fact, I’m slightly embarrassed at how much I was crying by the end. It’s a sweet, quirky comedy, although the emotional beats are about as subtle as a brick to the head. It’s currently number 13 on the list of highest-grossing movies in China, having earned 1.44 billion yuan.
Měi Rén Yú
At the time of writing, this is the all-time highest grossing movie in China, with a box office gross of nearly 3.4 billion yuan. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Stephen Chow’s other films, like Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, but perhaps I’m not exactly the target market. It’s a fairy tale about the love story between a heartless real estate developer Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) and the mermaid, Shan (Lin Yun) sent to assassinate him. I think there’s an environmental message here, although I couldn’t quite figure that out. If you’re in the mood for a strange, slapstick romance, then try this one out—but don’t expect to be blown away.
Méigōng Hé Xíng Dòng
This Dante Lam action movie takes place in the aftermath of the 2011 Mekong massacre. After a group of fishermen are murdered, a drug enforcement team with Greek mythology-themed code names, led by Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) and aided by undercover cop Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng), tries to take down psychopathic kingpin Naw Khar (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) in the Golden Triangle drug haven. There are a lot of implausible “oh come ON” action moments, especially one particular car chase, but there’s still enough grit and sleaze to be satisfying (child soldiers playing Russian roulette, anyone?). This is number 20 on the list of highest-grossing movies, with a box office gross of 1.18 billion yuan.
Zhuō Yāo Jì
I was pleasantly surprised by this one, which was the highest-grossing until The Mermaid knocked it off its perch. It’s currently number three, with a box office gross of 2.4 billion yuan. Like most movies in its genre, it’s unsurprising and occasionally hokey, but I found this one from Raman Hui rather charming. A human man, Song Tianyin (Jing Boran), is forced to incubate a dying monster queen’s baby. He and a monster hunter, Huo Xiaolan (Bai Baihe), embark on a journey together with the radish-looking monster spawn and a heart-warming adventure tale ensues, all about accepting others for who they are. Perhaps what I liked most about this one is that the male was the nurturer (he cooked, he sewed and he bore the baby) and the female was the protector and fighter, and was otherwise chockfull of female characters, good and bad.