Bai Baihe stars in Xu Jinglei's crime thriller The Missing. Photo: YouTube
Bai Baihe stars in Xu Jinglei's crime thriller The Missing. Photo: YouTube

Kong: Skull Island continues to dominate China’s box office, with the Hollywood blockbuster scaling to a height of US$134.7 million and showing no sign of falling off the chart’s top spot. Below Kong there’s a noticeable shift away from international fare to a number of new releases from China and Hong Kong.

Second on the China chart is stiffly played thriller The Devotion of Suspect X. The third film adaptation of Higashino Keigo’s novel (Japan and Korea got in first) Alec Su’s version transfers the action from Tokyo to Harbin and features Zhang Luyi as a mathematics genius who helps, then harasses, his widowed neighbor and her teenage daughter. Opening strongly last Friday with takings of US$6.9 million, the crime caper briefly overpowered Kong: Skull Island. But by the end of the weekend the great ape had regained the upper hand and delegated The Devotion of Suspect X to second place with US$31.5 million.

In third slot, Extraordinary Mission not only sees Hong Kong director Alan Mak and his frequent collaborator, writer Felix Chong (Infernal Affairs 1, 2 & 3) take the idea of an undercover cop attempting to take down a drug trafficking ring around the block one more time, but has Mak co-directing with cinematographer Anthony Pun (New Police Story, Shaolin). Their collective efforts have helped the film take US$11.9 million since its mainland opening on April 1.

Next is The Missing, a thriller starring Bai Baihe as a policewoman looking to her underworld contacts for help when her child is kidnapped. Taking US$8.5 million since its April 1 opening, The Missing out-performed Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

In Japan, the top five remained unchanged with Sing leading the way for the third week in a row followed by Moana, Doraemon, Kong, and Ancien and the Magic Tablet. The two big improvers on the Japanese charts this week were Policeman and Me, which rose from seventh to sixth position on its second week, and cheerleader success story, Let’s Go Jets, which sneaked back into the top 10 from 11th slot in its third week.

Directed by prolific independent filmmaker Ryuichi Hiroki in one of his “just for the money” gigs, Policeman and Me is based on a popular shoujo manga (girls’ comics) series aimed at the teenage girl market, and presents the prickly ethical problem of a young policeman dating a 16-year-old school girl. The film’s Japanese title, P and JK, includes the abbreviation for high school girls (Joshi Kokosei) frequently used by the local sex industry.

So far, distributor Shochiku hasn’t provided statistics to indicate whether the film’s surge in popularity is due to teenage girls belatedly realising it’s safe to see the film, or predatory salarymen (or policemen for that matter) being slow to scout cinemas for illicit pleasures.

In Korea, controversial adaptation of revered anime Ghost in the Shell debuted at number three with a weekend tally of US$4.2 million. While audiences worldwide stayed away, South Korea provided 10 per cent of the film’s global takings.

With the simple addition of one Korean cast member to add to the international mix of Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche the film might have performed even better, but Ghost in the Shell was unable to make a dent in the popularity of number one film Beauty and the Beast (US$30.5 million) or the runner-up, Korean crime movie The Prison (US$16.5 million).

With Ghost in the Shell yet to be released in China or Japan, it remains to be seen whether the film’s so-called “white-wash” casting of Scarlett Johansson is a negative for the Asian market or the controversy is simply a western media confection.