Animated Chinese noir Have a Nice Day is an admirably nasty piece of work, with a grotty art style that both sets the mood and expertly springs the various traps encountered along the way. Set over the course of a long, dark night in a southern industrial town, the plot follows the events that occur after a low-level gang driver impulsively grabs a bag of cash. Things do not go well at all, beginning with the summoning of a butcher who dabbles in mob enforcement on the side.
“This is a world of madmen and fools,” a character states in the early going, and writer/director Liu Jian gives both types ample room to run, with a small yet vivid cast of oddballs, all of whom prove more than willing to kick their morals to the curb at the slightest provocation. While the character motivations would be relevant in any era, modern technology also has an intriguing part to play, with Internet cafes, intercepted text messages, and automatic traffic cameras all making significant contributions to the arc of narrative descent. The brief references to Brexit and Trump only enhance the sense of impending doom, really.
Although the intentionally static animation may be off-putting to some, the decision pays big dividends, particularly when the filmmaker breaks up the downward spiral with moments such as an out-of-nowhere (and hilariously tacky) karaoke number about Shangri-La, or an unexpectedly lyrical digression on different types of freedom. Ultimately, what Have a Nice Day delivers is the compulsive hook of good crime fiction, with the array of flashbacks and wrong moves setting up a Venal Mobius Strip of bad choices and worse consequences. The fickle finger of fate may fall on us all, but these individuals sure seem to be in a hurry for their turn.