Director: Chen Sicheng
Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Tong Liya, Chen He, Xiao Yang
Runtime: 2 hrs 16 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual Scene)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 14 January 2016
Synopsis: A talented young boy called QIN Feng failed entrance examination of police school so that his grandmother sent him to Thailand with his cousin TANG Ren, who is known as ”the best detective of Chinatown”. Actually, TANG Ren is an “obscene” man and becomes a mysterious murder suspect after a night of crazy drinking with tons of pretty ladies. QIN Feng and TANG Ren have to run for their life…… Then “Crazy Dog” Detective HUANG Landeng who is in hot pursuit, TANG Ren and QIN Feng need to mutually reinforce and try their best to escape the hunt of police and thieves. Meanwhile, they have to find the lost gold and solve the real murderer within seven days…
If you don’t already know, there isn’t abundant originality in the world we live in. Just take a look at the movies around you – remakes, sequels, comic book and novel adaptations are aplenty. And that’s the reason why we are not faulting this comedy mystery from Mainland Chinese singer actor director Chen Sicheng.
This is basically a Chinese Sherlock Holmes story set in Bangkok. The protagonist is a budding police detective who finds himself in the hustles and bustles of Bangkok with his loud and crass uncle. The two have to team up to solve a mystery involving a dead man and lost gold. Introduce campy comedy (expect lots of screeching and screaming from the characters) and action sequences boasting high production values (the car chase scenes are truly awe inspiring), and you have a crowd pleasing movie which earned US$43.6 million during its opening weekend back home, proving that the Chinese does love domestic goods – we won’t be surprised to see countless other similar genres being produced in time to come.
The meek but likeable Liu Haoran plays the young man who fails his police school entrance examination back home. Liu, who first worked with the director in 2014’s Beijing Love Story, is amiable as the stammering protagonist who has to make things work in a foreign land. His personality is effectively contrasted with Wang Baoqiang’s (Kung Fu Jungle, Monk Comes Down the Mountain) loud and blundering character, who is supposedly the best detective in Bangkok’s Chinatown. The two are your reserved Sherlock Holmes and dumbass Watson who are out to solve a mystery case.
They are accompanied by many supporting characters along the way. There’re two seedy policemen (Xiao Yang and Chen He) who are hot on their heels, a foxy landlady (Tong Liya), and countless local thugs – all playing their part to ensure that you have a rollicking ride through Bangkok’s Chinatown as the mystery is unveiled piece by piece.
There are scenes shamelessly inspired by Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. Liu sees things around him in slow motion and words can fly out of books to make sense in his powerfully analytical mind. These are intercut with action packed scenes and a loud soundtrack.
The ensemble cast is fun to watch and although the movie stretches past a two hour runtime into 136 minutes, you never feel a moment of dullness or dread. It helps that Wang (albeit being a little irritating at first with his high pitched voice) pulls off his character perfectly – the 31 year old actor who made an impression with the equally commercially successful Lost in Thailand (2012) shouldn’t be a stranger to the Thai culture as he guffaws and trudges his way through the movie. Watch out for a surprisingly affecting moment where he talks about how he left China to find adventure in Thailand – it’s a testament of the actor’s skills. Liu, on the other hand, is fresh faced and while he may be a tad to pretty for viewers who like their men rugged, the role seems to fit him well. You see the character fit the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle one by one, before the secret behind the intricately plotted mystery comes to light.
All the above, coupled with a perfectly executed production design and a outrageously enjoyable editing pace and a brassy soundtrack, makes this trip through Chinatown a truly enjoyable one.
(An enjoyable mystery comedy headlined by Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran that will leave you wanting more – no worries because a sequel is coming up in 2017!)
Review by John Li