A nice gimmick can add spice to an over told story, but you gotta rub in that spice to make a tasty meal. A Cool Fish had a nice gimmick, but the question becomes how well it does integrate with the final product.
A Cool Fish follows the lives of about nine characters and how their lives magically connect with one another in a way that adds nothing to the plot. First, there’s Ma Xianyong (Chen Jianbin), an ex-cop working as security for a wealthy real estate developer Gao Ming (Wang Yanhui). Ming recently ducked out of town because he owes an enormous debt to a local, yet powerful, loan shark. In hopes of flushing out the developer, the shark holds daily public funerals, so everyone knows he’s wanted and shakes down everyone who worked for him, including Ma.
“…follows the lives of about nine characters and how their lives magically connect with one another…”
Then there’s Cobra or “Bra” (Zhang Yu) and Big Head (Pan Binlong), a pair of aspiring criminals on motorcycles and their pretty cool helmets. The two thieves act like tough guys but are a little green when it comes to the pulling off the big heist. I guess confidence is everything in life. After successfully robbing a cellphone store, their heightened adrenaline levels accidentally spoils their getaway, forcing them to leave their bike on top of a nearby tree (sigh).
Now on foot, the pair break into an apartment and stumble across an angry and depressed quadriplegic woman, Jiaqi (Ren Suxi). They threaten to kill her if she makes a sound, and she gladly accepts their offer of death. Needless to say, they’re going to spend a lot of time together.
Now, back to Ma, the police arrive to rescue him from a beating from the loan shark’s thugs. Ma inquires his former partner about possibly returning to the police force. Seeing that his chances are impossible, he decides to go solo and investigate the cellphone store robbery and win his spot back on the force.
“While all this intertwining seems cool, it all really had little impact on the overall story…”
Taking a page from Lost, I suppose, the gimmick in A Cool Fish is that the lives of the central and supporting characters are all intertwined in some miraculous way. Former detective Ma is off the force because of a drunk driving accident that killed his wife and left his sister paralyzed. The sister is Jiaqi with whom Cobra and Big Head are now her captors. Ma’s daughter, in a separate subplot, is dating the son of hiding real estate developer Gao. Big Head’s motivation to rob the store is so he can move back to the country with this girlfriend, who works at a “massage” parlor frequented by Jiaqi’s landlord. While all this intertwining seems cool, it all really had little impact on the overall story, thus the term gimmick. It’s all passively interesting but ultimately unnecessary.
Which begs the ultimate question, why see A Cool Fish? Good question, I don’t know. Its plot, action, and acting are underwhelming. It’s humor relies on silly slapstick, and its supporting characters are somewhat stereotypical for Chinese action films. Make the emotional connections between the connected characters stronger, it might have made a difference in the end. The problem is it was brief and used solely to service an unnecessary gimmick.
A Cool Fish (2018) Directed by Roa Xiaozhi. Written by Lai Zhilong, Roa Xiaozhi. Starring Chen Jianbin, Ren Suxi, Pan Binlong, Zhang Yu.
4 out of 10 stars