Starring: Tong Dawei, Ma Li, Huo Siyan
Director: Yu Miao
Running Time: 96 mins
Kill Mobile is a Chinese film about a group of seven friends who get together for a dinner party, and decide to play a game. Placing each of their phones on the table, they agree to share the content of every message they receive, as they have nothing to hide. However, it soon appears that this is going to be no normal evening.
This is the fourth version of the Italian hit Perfect Strangers that I’ve seen, and while it’s the one that offers up the most originality and deviation from the original film, it’s also the weakest telling of the same story. In that, while Kill Mobile has its moments, and is certainly an entertaining watch at times, it’s a film that often overextends itself in trying to compensate for its various changes to the original script, an attempt at bolder originality that unfortunately falls flat.
Let’s start off with the story, which is, at its core, pretty much the same as the Italian original. It’s still seven friends in pretty much identical roles coming together for a dinner party that goes wrong when secrets and more are spilled from everyone’s phones.
That story, as proved by Perfect Strangers, as well as its Spanish and French remakes, is brilliant no matter what guise you put it in, and so proves the case once again, with the key beats of the ups and downs of a turbulent dinner party still proving thoroughly entertaining and exciting (which is remarkable given that I’ve been through the same story four times now).
However, unlike the Spanish and French versions, this Chinese version of Perfect Strangers tries a little harder to be different to the original. As I said, it’s still the same movie at the core, but with a variety of changes to the script for cultural reasons, as well as a different thematic focus, it offers up a slightly new angle to look at the same story.
In that, the film’s main focus is on how we are so overly reliant on our phones nowadays, and while that’s undoubtedly present in all of the other versions of the story, it’s an especially poignant one in this case, linking in with how heavily modern Chinese society is invested in the digital world – far more so than its European counterparts – and the worrying consequences that can occur when things reach an extreme.
I will say that the film is a little heavy-handed in that approach. Along with the core story, it also offers up a few extra little vignettes that tie into the main plot as well as further that main theme, but they just don’t feel like an organic addition to the film’s main discourse, something that’s achieved far more effectively when you spend the entire duration with the same characters in the same room.
Another issue with some of the film’s discrepancies from the original come in its relative lack of emotional depth. While it’s an entertaining watch, with some enjoyable performances and good humour throughout, this is the first time that I’ve watched this story unfold without ever really feeling it all hit home.
While the Italian original is a lot of fun, much of its drama and thrills comes from the emotional depth that’s built up over the course of the film, as the characters’ inhibitions are stripped away and left to bear all of their raw emotions, culminating in a thrillingly uncomfortable watch, which is ultimately what makes the premise work so well over the course of an enthralling and deeply awkward dinner party.
Kill Mobile, on the other hand, doesn’t offer up the same emotional depth. That’s in part due to its heavier focus on the mobile phone theme, but also due to the fact that some of the key elements of the original Italian script just aren’t translatable this time round, whether it’s because they just don’t apply quite as perfectly to China, or are still regarded as taboo, something which I found a real shame.
With all that said, this film is still an enjoyable watch, and the seven leads all give energetic and engrossing performances that play brilliantly off one another, as is the case in all of the film’s other versions. (Meanwhile, my prize for stand-out actor for this version of Perfect Strangers goes to Ma Li, who gives one of the best performances for her role out of all the Perfect Strangers movies, even though it’s a little different to the rest).
Overall, then, I had fun with Kill Mobile. It’s an interesting adaptation of Perfect Strangers that still retains the core entertainment factor of the brilliant story, all the while offering up a different perspective on the same premise, even if it occasionally falls flat when it tries to deviate from the course of the original, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.