TIK TOK (2016) review

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A Korean-Chinese co-production, Li Jun’s Tik Tok takes place in Seoul and follows Korean cop Jiang (Lee Jung-jae), who is investigating the kidnapping of a footballer’s wife, mere hours before he is supposed to play in a momentous match in an Asian championship. By tracking the kidnapper’s phone, Jiang is led to Guo Zhida (Wallace Chung), a Chinese gambling addict who wears a mask after being disfigured in a factory fire, and suffers from severe mental illness, for which he is being treated by Yang Xi (Lang Yueting), a Chinese psychiatrist hired by his brother Zhihua (also Wallace Chung). Zhida has placed several bombs in the stadium where the football match is taking place, and now Jiang must play his sick game of riddles and bets to get him to tell where they are, before it’s too late.

With its bomb threat and its playful villain, Tik Tok feels right out of the Hollywood nineties, echoing on more than one occasion John McTiernan’s Die Hard with a Vengeance, as its heroes run around at the whim of a riddle-dispensing baddie. After a rather muddled opening that only succeeds as a warning about Wallace Chung’s obnoxious over-acting in a dual role, the film settles into an entertaining but derivative groove, offering nothing new narratively or visually, but suffering no significant lulls in the action. Lee Jung-jae is his usual charismatic self, as the kind of highly-strung hero type that he can play in his sleep, and he gets the film’s best moment, in which he single-handedly works his way through a building’s worth of henchmen, from the entrance to the elevator to the hallways to a big control room. It’s nothing new either, but quite exciting nonetheless.

But when it comes to the twists and turns strewn throughout the story, they tend to be either very predictable, or slightly puzzling and muddled. The filmmakers even have the over-confidence of dropping an additional twist halfway through the end credits, though given the film’s muted box-office reception, a sequel is not likely to happen. Still, the pairing of Lee’s hard-boiled, impulsive cop and Lang Yueting’s charming and highly-intelligent psychiatrist is a pleasant one, while Lee Chae-yeong is good fun as an impetuous policewoman. Watch out for unintelligible English dialogue however – a problem that plagues quite a few recent Chinese productions. If Lee Jung-jae’s is dubbed when his character speaks Chinese, surely the production could have dubbed Lang Yueting and Lee Chae-young’s English, rather than having whole sentences lost to most ears by poor pronunciation.

Long Story Short: A serviceable but derivative and predictable thriller saved by an appealing lead couple and one excellent set piece. **1/2

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