Xu Zheng (left) and actor Wang Yanhui promote the forthcoming movie A or B. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Xu Zheng has been missing from the big screen for nearly three years.
Now the actor-director, who has reshaped Chinese comedy films with Lost in Thailand and Lost in Hong Kong, is set to return to cinemas on April 28, when the suspense thriller A or B will be released.
Other than acting in the film, Xu is its executive producer. The thriller will aim to make the most of the holiday box-office around May 1.
The film centers on a top player in the stock market, who is drawn into a crisis after discovering a huge amount of unidentified gold valued at 2 billion yuan (8.6 million) or so.
Xu shot to fame from the 2000 hit television series Sunny Piggy, and has shifted his career focus to directing since his first feature film Lost in Thailand became popular in 2013. The movie about an unlikely duo's adventure in Thailand was the highest-grossing Chinese film that year, followed by the more successful sequel Lost in Hong Kong in 2015. The hits paved the way for Xu's rise to the top ranks in China's movie industry.
Film director Ren Pengyuan says he felt like he had "won a lottery" when Xu agreed to lead the cast for A or B. Ren had directed a few low-profile films earlier.
"The script hooked me. I read until the last page without stopping," says Xu, during a promotional event in Beijing this week.
Xu, who will turn 46 in April, says the story reminds him of Taiwan director Leste Chan's suspense thriller The Great Hypnotist, a 2014 hit packed with many psychological sequences. In the film, Xu played an arrogant and suspicious hypnotist, and the role had won him acclaim from a number of critics and fans.
He says such roles are challenging to perform but fulfilling. "I didn't think about the box office. I just want to do the best I can do," he adds.
He believes the movie will provide more diversity in the domestic movie industry, which has quickly expanded in annual box-office totals but doesn't have many genres.
The film's cast includes Wang Likun, known for her 2014 romance Somewhere Only We Know, and veteran actors Wang Yanhui, Duan Bowen, Yu Hewei and Hong Kong star Simon Yam.