Director: Cui Rui, Liu Xiang
Cast: Zhu Yilong, Ni Ni, Janice Man, Du Jiang
Runtime: 2 hr 2 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 3 August 2023
Synopsis: LI MUZI, wife of HE FEI (Zhu Yilong), mysteriously disappeared on their anniversary trip to Balandia, a Southeast Asian island. The clueless husband turned for help to CHEN MAI (Ni Ni), a renowned international lawyer. As the investigation progressed, more hidden secrets were revealed...
Chinese actor, director and screenwriter Chen Sicheng started getting our attention with Detective Chinatown (2015) starring Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran, which he directed and wrote. The wacky whodunit comedy movie sent us on an adrenaline high, and its sequels in 2018 and 2021 were equally entertaining – making the series one of the most consistent (and profitable) franchises in China. Chen is back with another blockbuster movie, and although he didn’t take on the director role, his involvement as producer and screenwriter has us excited to see what the filmmaker has in store.
Co-directed by Cui Rui and Liu Xiang, the mystery drama is based on a little known Russian comedy detective movie Trap for a Lonely Man (1990), which was adapted from a 1960 stage play of the same name by Robert Thomas. Popular actor Zhu Yilong plays He Fei, a man who is holidaying with his wife Li Muzi on a fictitious Southeast Asian island (where people seem to be conversing in Thai), where they are celebrating their one year wedding anniversary.
The celebrations come to a halt when Li Muzi goes missing, much to He Fei’s dismay, especially because his tourist visa is about to expire. Things become weird when he wakes up the next day with a woman (the sultry Janice Man) in his bed, claiming that she is Li Muzi. He almost goes berserk when people around him claim that the stranger is his wife, with phone photos, passport information and CCTV camera footage suggesting that he is the one who is crazy. He turns to a Mandarin speaking lawyer (Ni Ni, radiating a terrific air of confidence), and the two begin uncovering pieces of clues related to a human trafficking organisation and some really shady personalities. In the mix is a no nonsense local inspector (Du Jiang) who seems to be siding the supposed imposter.
With a runtime of 122 minutes, the movie is well paced and while the story does feel increasingly preposterous, you can’t help but applaud the audacity of the lengths the plot is willing to go for viewers to enjoy a wild tale of human deceit. Just when you thought the story is heading towards a certain finale, it confuses you by throwing a new spanner in the works. Essentially, you’d want to step into the cinema without any expectations to fully enjoy the twisty ride. It is also noteworthy that the story is also based on a 2019 true life crime involving a Chinese couple that happened in Thailand.
Zhu gives it his all to play the husband who is desperate to find his wife in a foreign land. The character has a neurological condition, which gives the actor lots of room to display his acting chops. A scene where his head is forcefully shaved is harrowing to watch. The ladies deliver commendable performances as well, with Ni portraying a steadfast female lawyer who will stop at nothing to get her clients acquitted, and Man playing a femme fatale that sends shivers down the protagonist’s spine. This is another fun and engaging piece of work from Chen and his team, but this time, it is layered with darker elements that makes you question humanity.
(Leave your sense of logic at the door and go along for this twisty ride that sheds light on the darker side of humanity)
Review by John Li