Welcome to the a long overdue double feature. There’s nothing in common with these two films. I skipped over a few movies that I saw in between everything in the last month or two that I don’t really want to write about. You can see what I watched and ratings over on my Letterboxd so here we are with this random double feature with Love O2O (also called Just One Smile is Very Alluring) which is a Chinese romance and then the second is a horror movie from earlier this year called Escape Room.
Love O2O (微微一笑很倾城, 2016)
Director: Tianyu Zhao
Cast: Angelababy, Boran Jing, Yu Bai, Janice Wu, Songyun Tan, Yi Cheng, Jiuxiao Li, Xian Li, Zijie Wang
A college stud tries to level up his relationship with a computer science major after becoming attracted to her skills in an online role-playing game. – Netflix
Its odd to see that a movie adaptation and a TV series adaptation of a novel is done in the same year however that is what happened with Love O2O. Both are available on Netflix right now and I had recently reviewed the TV series HERE. Its hard to not compare the two so while the movie is a much more shrunken size of the TV series with some of the characters in the movie version carrying multiple roles that different people played in the TV series. I have never read the source material so I don’t know which is the more accurate adaptation. The movie did get released before the TV series in 2016 so it works fairly well as a standalone film.
Love O2O is pretty fun. Perhaps because there is comparison, the film feels much more rushed because it has limited time to cover different elements from romance to fulfilling a game development dream and friendship which are three elements that make this story really good in the first place. The film itself works best because its one of the more positive stories on all elements. Sure, it adds a little drama with the young developers and friends hitting their first roadblock but it never breaks out of the idea of being a team and staying positive and working together to move forward. The message here is one that deserves a lot of attention and encouragement.
On the romance side of things, Angelababy works really well as the female lead. She fits the role very well especially with her interaction with Boran Jing. They do have a certain level of chemistry. Its hard to really picture Boran Jing in a romance film like this usually but oddly, he kind of grows on you because the character still fits him. It could all come from comparisons to the TV leads as well for myself and expectations but the differences here work also.
Fact is, Love O2O as a film has less depth because it doesn’t have the time to explore a lot of what its tackling. The story itself works better as a TV series but there are a lot of elements here that make this fun watch and still works in its own way.
Escape Room (2019)
Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Yorick Van Wageningen
Six strangers find themselves in a maze of deadly mystery rooms and must use their wits to survive. – IMDB
It seems that the theme of 2019 is to make sure that there are no more fun and exciting activities in life to do as a lot of them are potentially great horror movie premises from seeing Aquaslash which make water slides slasher territory to now Escape Room being too real for its own good for its participant, its really a crazy world out there. All jokes aside though, Escape Room is a premise with a lot of potential seeing as its kind of like Saw pretty much but without the gruesome bits of losing body parts and bloody messes. With an entire cast other than Deborah Ann Woll that I had never seen, this one didn’t seem to have the star power (or maybe it did and I wasn’t aware) and had a decent premise and had the potential to do well. Did it? Its a yes and no answer for that one.
Its a yes because the escape room elements worked really well for the most part. The setup from the starting reception area that turned out to be the first room that turned into a gigantic oven all the way to solving one area to the next, the stakes were higher and higher. At the same time, the story was meant to link together with one character as escape rooms tend to be structured as while also giving a reason for why these six strangers were chosen to take part in this escape room. I’m not going to sell that this movie isn’t a whole stretch of imagination on that point because most people if they received a mysterious cube inviting you to participate in an escape room game probably wouldn’t accept it, no matter the prize because even if it wasn’t a death trap, its probably a scam because normal people, let alone corporations, won’t give away free money. However, point is, the movie does make the effort to give these characters justification to why they even chose to accept to join this Escape Room game in the first place obviously without knowing that it was a sinister plan. So with that said, while some of the characters were slightly annoying, they did have a certain balance to it all.
Where it doesn’t work is that the final act really lets it down. For one, the movie starts where the final act will potentially happen at the end of the film which already is a big giveaway on who makes it and doesn’t in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t a good way to make these things happen especially if character elimination is part of the whole game. With any of these thrillers, there has to be a twist to give it the surprise element and in this case, it is so very obvious. Going right back to my point on why the film doesn’t work, the final act is just pushing the story too far and then it doesn’t end but decides to wrap things up some more while teasing a second film (probably if it does well). Its a pity because the potential was there and it was pretty thrilling even if some rooms was just more of a passerby than a piece of a complex puzzle.