Director: Chen Sicheng
Cast: Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Xiao Yang, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Shang Yuxian, Wang Xun, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Yuen Wah, Kenneth Tsang, Michael Pitt
Runtime: 2 hrs 1 min
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 22 February 2018
Synopsis: Chinatown's most famous detective duo are back! Qin (Liu Haoran) arrives in New York City to attend Tang’s (Wang Baoqiang) wedding... or so he thinks. It turns out the so-called wedding is actually an international detective contest with an attractive cash prize for whomever manages to locate the missing grandson of Uncle Qi, the ‘godfather’ of Chinatown. Angry about being deceived, Qin decides to leave New York City, but the contest takes a sudden turn; Uncle Qi’s grandson has been murdered, and in a strange way. Qin joins Tang to form the “Detective Chinatown duo” and all the detectives involved try their best to solve their case.
It’s inconsequential if you didn’t catch the first Detective Chinatown because you can still enjoy the maniac energy of the sequel without knowledge of what happened a year before between Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) and his distance uncle, Tang Reng (Wang Baoqiang).
Detective Chinatown in short is China’s contemporary version of Sherlock and Watson except Sherlock in this case is a baby face police academy recruit and his sidekick happened to be a loud, crass uncle with a gold tooth and speaks in puzzling Cantonese accented Mandarin.
In this sequel which took place entirely in New York, Qing Feng is tricked by Tang Ren to help solve the death of Uncle Seven’s (Kenneth Tsang) son. Uncle Seven, touted as Chinatown’s most powerful man has promised a reward of $5 million to anyone who can solve the murder case and Tang Ren is tempted by the bounty.
With time running out as Uncle Seven is dying, Qing Feng and Tang Ren must rise above the rag-tag bunch of world-renowned detectives assembled including hacker Kiko (Shang Yuxian), Japan’s super sleuth (played by Satoshi Tsumabuki) and many other weird stereotypical characters (and yes that is Bai Ling among them) to find the serial killer fast before he strikes again in the heart of Manhattan.
Director Chen Sicheng once again successfully pulled off a madcap mystery thriller filled with plenty of chases and gags. One thing to note is there’s hardly a scene of boredom as each particular scene seems to be perfectly rehearsed and written that with every new development and dialogue, audiences are being fed with new information that led to the next.
The murder case, which contains hints of Seven makes clever use of the Chinese elements theory, Feng Shui and Taoism to create a stimulating yet familiar mystery. It might be a tad exaggerating once the mystery is unfold before our eyes but Chen’s ability to blend the enthusiasm of his cast members with his out-of-this-world story is definitely commending.
The obvious increase in production budget allows the production crew to roam around in Times Square, Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library although it hugely sacrifices the ability to stage a grander fight or chase scene. The sole fight sequence involves Tang Ren dressed in a chicken suit fending off assailants in a chaotic traffic jam, a scene so cartoonish and entertaining that you expect it to last a while longer.
It’s not just the location shooting which is ambitious, the visual effects on display especially when Qing Feng starts his visual mind mapping and photographic memory skill is very much top notch unlike the usual lackluster CG qualities you seen in Asian titles.
Still, Detective Chinatown 2 is not without its flaws. The movie contains plenty of lazy lowbrow, stereotypical gags and references liked the police chief who looked exactly liked Donald Trump, Blacks carrying guns, Chinese speaking broken English and police munching on donuts that you feel more embarrassed for Chinese than Americans in the end. In addition, there’s even a nod to the original Police Academy franchise if you can recall the iconic Blue Oyster Bar only this time, a Chinese oldie is playing in the background.
Appreciating Wang Baoqiang’s supposedly nitwit character and his often-ludicrous, brainless one-liner is a must since Liu Haoran’s character to be frank is too bland to make an impact, their pair-off makes a better detective team. One’s smart the other is just street-smart. The other notable supporting cast includes one half of the music band, Chopstick Brothers, Xiao Yang appearing as an illegal immigrant who assist the duo on the case, Australian actress Natasha Liu Bordizzo plays a NYPD detective, HK action star Yuen Wah in a really, really funny extended cameo and Michael Pitt (last seen in the live-action Ghost In The Shell) appears as a forensic doctor.
Detective Chinatown 2 runs for two hours (15 minutes shorter than the first) although strangely, there’s never a need to check your watch. The oddball pairing is so contagious that you probably can’t wait for the third instalment which likely to take place in Tokyo’s Chinatown. Looks like Satoshi Tsumabuki is going to be reunited with Tang and Qing. We shall see.
(Compared to the rest of the many commercialized Chinese titles on the market that are mostly stuck in a rut, the Detective Chinatown franchise is a must see!)
Review by Linus Tee