Sometimes you want complex stories and characters in your films. But when it comes to action movies, sometimes you just want the simplest story with the most bodily damage. And that's exactly what you get in Renny Harlin's high-concept action thriller Bodies at Rest
. After moving his career to China, Harlin directed Jackie Chan's Skiptrace
(2016) and the period fantasy Legend of the Ancient Sword
(2018), both of which are about as not good as his 2000s Hollywood output would predict. Bodies at Rest
, however, is right up the director's Die Hard 2
The ever busy Nick Cheung plays forensic pathologist Dr. Chan, who is settling in for a Christmas Eve at the lab with intern Lynn (Yang Zi). Suddenly, three armed men enter the building, and demand that Chan extract and hand over a bullet from a certain corpse. The entirety of the film consists mainly of Chan and Lynn running around and using their wits to try to fight back and escape, while the three criminals become increasingly worked up and trigger-happy. A security guard, a funeral home worker, a cleaning worker and two police officers also enter the fray at different points.
With Nick Cheung in the house to provide some classy acting as the unnaturally calm and collected protagonist, Bodies at Rest manages to stay somewhat level-headed even as the tension and action ratchet up, and things spiral out of control. Richie Jen plays it remarkably straightforward as the brutal bad guy who is singularly driven to cover up his crime – apparently by recklessly committing even more severe crimes that can't be covered up. Yang Zi, who is known for her adorable turns in hit China dramas, is surprisingly good in an action role. She brings no trace of cute to her feisty performance as the resourceful intern who's quick on her feet and does more fighting than Nick Cheung.
There's very little story to this story, and the film is all the better for it. While brief details are provided for Nick Cheung's character and the criminals' motives as needed, Bodies at Rest is mostly a series of chase scenes, action set pieces and wild shootouts in the morgue. Sticking resolutely to its premise, the film demonstrates an admirable willingness to shoot at everyone who appears onscreen, letting the stakes and body count build up as the cat-and-mouse game unfolds. Nick Cheung appeared in four crime thrillers in 2019, and while this may not be the best one, I sure enjoyed it the most.