End Game is a Chinese-Hong Kong comedy about identity theft and what ensues

End Game (MA, 119 minutes)

Three stars

At one point in End Game, one of the characters observes that what's been happening is complicated.

She's right, and you might find yourself similarly befuddled trying to keep up with all the characters and complications of the story. But if you're in the right mood, this dark Chinese-Hong Kong comedy - a remake of the 2012 Japanese film Key of Life which was also remade as the Korean film Lucky-Key (2016) - should be fun. If you don't like subtitles you might want to wait for a Hollywood remake, but this is worth a look.

Xiao Yang in Endgame. Picture: Supplied

Xiao Yang in Endgame. Picture: Supplied

Chen Xiaomeng (played by Xiao Yang) is a loser. He's a struggling actor who's reached the point of despair - he's about to be evicted from his (disgracefully messy) apartment and has no money, no girlfriend and no prospects.

Even his attempt to hang himself fails.

Before trying again, he visits a bath house. While showering, he accidentally drops a piece of soap which causes one of the other members, Zhou Quan (Andy Lau) to fall, hit his head, and become comatose. Chen impulsively takes the opportunity to swap locker keys (since he's noticed the other guy seems to be rich) and help himself to the contents - and Zhou's identity.

Fortunately for Chen, when Zhou awakens he has amnesia. If he didn't, this would be a pretty short movie.

The first part of the film is fun as both men try to adjust to their new lives. Chen finds himself living in a huge luxury apartment with heaps of cash, which he uses to pay off all his debt

It all seems great, but he also discovers something more disquieting: Zhou has multiple passports and guns. He seems to be a hit man, so if Chen wants to enjoy all the luxuries, he will have to take on this identity and all its potential dangers.

Meanwhile, Zhou is given a lift "home" (ie to Chen's place) by Li Xiang (Regina Wan), with whom he quickly forms a bond, and has to try to piece together who he (thinks he) is. Believing himself to be Chen, he takes meticulous notes based on clues he finds and is much more assiduous than Chen was. He cleans up the apartment, studies the acting textbooks Chen neglected, and makes a serious effort to land roles.

The fact that Lau - the biggest star in the movie - was also an executive producer might explain why his character is the more sympathetically depicted. The point is made that Zhou is, in his way, an actor too and this becomes clearer as we find out more about him. He's serious-minded, smart and ambitious, making a better go of the jobbing actor's life than it appears Chen ever did.

Director and co-writer Xiaozhi Rao keeps the action going at an effective pace so it's possible, more or less, to keep track of what's happening as the plot becomes more complicated.

Chen is more of a buffoon - not totally unlikeable or unsympathetic but with little depth. He's the sort of guy who drifts through life, wanting bigger and better things but unwilling or unable to make them happen.

After Chen "becomes" Zhou, he's doing the most serious acting of his life as he deals with clients and potential victims, which makes sense given how high the stakes are.

Director and co-writer Xiaozhi Rao keeps the action going at an effective pace and it's never boring although it does, at times, become a little tricky to follow. But keeping up with all the complications is part of the pleasure - you just have to accept what is a pretty far-out premise and go along with what follows.

This deserves a bigger audience than the one I saw it with at Dendy. Don't run for the door when the end credits begin - there are still a few more scenes to come.

This story Identity swap is complicated fun first appeared on The Canberra Times.