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Day Breaker chinese drama review
Day Breaker
18 people found this review helpful
by PeachBlossomGoddess
Jun 7, 2022
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 8
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.5

The Dark Path.

Day Breaker is a chilling undercover narcotics cop thriller that is part of iQiyi's 2022 Light On Series lineup. The drama is set in the fictional Hua City in a lawless Southeast Asian nation that bears an uncanny resemblance to Thailand. In this made-up world, the country is overrun by drug cartels and the police force is under resourced and susceptible to corruption. This drama has won high praise but it is one that must be watched with eyeballs glued to the screen due to the intense and elaborate plot with myriad twists and mind benders.

Luo Xiang is an undercover narcotics cop pretending to be a mole in a local drug cartel. A planned takedown of a major drug deal goes horribly awry, apparently killing Luo Xiang. He re-emerges five years later as Chen Mo, a taxi driver who is tasked by Liao Yongjia to assume the identity Luo Xiang and reunite with the cartel. Li Yifeng really impresses in this role as someone juggling multiple identities while walking on the edge of discovery. His Luo Xiang has lived a lie as Chen Mo for so long that it is not clear he knows what his reality is, much less his former lover Su Qingzhu or his violent, jacked up cartel brother Longge. Luo Xiang's fascinating and oddly genuine bromance with Longge recalls Li Yifeng's iconic and manipulative performance as double agent Chen Shen in Sparrow. One of my biggest disappointments with Day Breaker is how this relationship was cheated of a satisfying denouement. While not a romance, the subtle longing and painful chemistry of the unspoken behind Luo Xiang's lies in his interactions with Su Qingzhu adds another layer to Li Yifeng's outstanding portrayal. Unfortunately this is another less than great role for Song Yi as Su Qingzhu is another character that is short changed at the end.

Both Feng Delun and Gong Haibin put in highly praiseworthy performances as Liao Yongjia and Yu Shenghai, Chen Mo's handlers in the undercover operation. In a cartel infested place like Hua City, everyone has a price and is forced to walk down the dark path, it is just a matter of to what degree. Thus as Chen Mo watches them wondering if either or both of them were moles that sold out Luo Xiang years ago, they are also testing Chen Mo to see if he is really Luo Xiang. The interplay between these three core characters as their stressors and motivators are revealed is the best, most intense part of the drama. While all three characters delivered riveting performances, it is Gong Haibin's Yu Shenghai that surprised and moved me the most and made me experience everything from rage to pity.

They are too many rival cartels in this drama and too many drug lords. Only two of them - Longge and Song Cai are multi-faceted and interesting. Longge is the ultimate outrageous fictional character, gruesomely and unnervingly violent and bizarrely comical at the same time. His wild affection for and trust in Luo Xiang clouds his survival instincts and innate shrewdness. There is an unpredictability in each of his outbursts that had my heart in my throat many times. Song Cai is also a complex cold blooded killer with his own code of conduct and many moments where his sentimentality and humanity pokes through. Both are too cursorily dealt with and sidelined in favour of less interesting villains.

While A-Xi is adorable and has some really funny scenes with Chen Mo, they were too few and far between. In general, humor is not well used to diffuse the tension in this overly convoluted plot. The drama could have ended at a climax at the end of Yu Shenghai's arc. Instead, the final two episodes rush through a contrived flash bang ending that relies on poorly fleshed out final villains, unnecessary twists and shocking but unworthy outcomes for good, smart characters. While it doesn't completely ruin the drama, this plot demands too much attention for it to sag like this at the end. Thus I must reduce my overall rating from 8.5 to 8.0 but I can still highly recommend it to fans of this genre.
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