Bodies at Rest (2019)

Renny Harlin directs Zi Yang, Richie Jen and Nick Cheung in this Hong Kong action thriller where morgue workers are held hostage by villains at Christmas.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Cliffhanger. The Long Kiss Goodnight. Harlin had a decent 90s Hollywood career of producing top end mayhem. This Asian career revival is smaller scale but actually works well. The narrative is a hard pump of chases, stand-offs, twists and opportune interruptions. There’s enough carnage and kinetics to sate the nostalgic action fan. It promises Die Hard in a morgue, it delivers Cliffhanger across a two storey building. The baddies want a bullet from a corpse. The hostages do everything they can to undermine and frustrate their armed transgressors. Nick Cheung makes for a nerdy reluctant hero, more Poirot than Jack Traven. Zi Yang is spunkily capable as his plucky assistant. Both end up with the ending you want for them. It just zips along pleasingly… loyal to what you’d expect from its director’s back catalogue, hitting the note you want from a HK gun flick. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it carries the crushed baggage of a production of its type. It is all a little too polished (especially the unlived-in setting), the humour is very dated, the smaller characters are one note and histrionic (a delivery driver turns up who you’d swear is a Sacha Baron Cohen creation if he were only a foot taller) and there are two too many subplots that are tied up way too neatly with little cumulative significance. But all in, all out… this is a Friday Night throwback that even when it wobbles, wobbles in a way familiar to the sub-genre it apes. Watched at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.


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