Movie Review: Life for Sale

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This bloody, absurd adventure about a suicidal man putting his life up for sale on the internet starts out strong, but quickly loses itself in the overly convoluted plot.

  • By Han Cheung / Staff Reporter

After failing to commit suicide (by attempting to consume lethal amounts of cinnamon, chewing gum, and carrots), discouraged insurance salesman Liang (Fu Meng-po, 傅孟柏) stumbles across Yukio’s novel Life For Sale Mishima in 1968.

Written two years before Mishima’s tragic suicide, the book’s protagonist, Hanio Yamada, sees no future and puts his life up for sale in a newspaper’s classifieds section, leading to a series of ridiculous events.

Liang’s determination to emulate Yamada is strengthened when he is fired from his job after punching a colleague. There are no takers at first, but Liang quickly discovers that the less he values ​​his life, the more others do. There’s her neighbor Yu-jen (Joanne Tseng, 曾之喬), a single mother whose teenage son desperately needs a heart transplant, a mysterious woman (Janel Tsai, 蔡淑臻) who is urgently looking for a test subject. for a high-stakes medical experiment, and old Mr. Wang (Tsai Ming-shiou, 蔡明修), who wants someone to perform dangerous tasks (like recovering a stolen dog from a vicious rival crime boss).

Photo courtesy of Vie Vision Pictures Co

Ironically, they all need to keep Liang alive to achieve their goals, and instead of dying, he’s stuck in an endless nightmare. It’s a promising premise that has the potential for a hilariously dark reflection on the value of its existence, but the ensuing production is too heavy on over-the-top absurdity and violence.

Director Tom Teng (鄧仲謀) tries to do too much in the film, disrupting the flow of the story by making Liang engage in all sorts of distracting activities. Life For Sale is a valiant effort to push the boundaries of Taiwanese cinema, but it falters halfway through and gets lost in its own ambition.

There are unnecessary and tired tropes included purely for comedic effect, like the flamboyant mobster boss and the characters peppering their speech with weird English, both of which have ceased to be fun – and quirky – there are decades. The touching family elements, a boring mainstay of most Taiwanese films today, are equally entertaining in a production that aims for absurd black comedy or film noir. In short, the film tries a bit too much to follow the campy vibe of Mishima’s novel.

Photo courtesy of Vie Vision Pictures Co

Fu does a good job portraying the disheveled action hero turned loser and reluctant, shedding his usually clean image and delivering a nuanced performance despite the limitations of the script. He masters the madness going on around him without being overly dramatic and manages to make the character likable despite his obvious flaws.

Fu also enjoys great chemistry with Tseng – the two co-starred in last year’s fantasy TV drama Rainless Love in a Godless Land (無神之地不下雨). Unfortunately, Teng doesn’t capitalize on that energy, instead moving on to weaker, more confusing storylines as Tseng’s character largely falls out of the picture.

Despite these issues, the film is still mildly entertaining with engaging cinematography and smooth action. The animations are a nice touch. The questions he asks are thought-provoking, although having never read the novel, this reviewer does not know if this is due to Mishima’s genius.

Photo courtesy of Vie Vision Pictures Co

At least it was interesting enough for me to want to check out the novel and compare.

movie notes

Life for sale 售命

DIRECTED BY:Tom Teng (鄧仲謀)

FEATURED :Fu Meng-po (傅孟柏) as Liang, Joanne Tseng (曾之喬) as Yu-jen, Janel Tsai (蔡淑臻) as Jing, Tsai Ming-shiou (蔡明修) as Mr. Wang

RUNTIME:106 minutes

LANGUAGES : Mandarin and Taiwanese with Chinese and English subtitles

EXIT TAIWAN:In theaters

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