Film Review: Despite Its Over-exaggerated Theatrics, ‘Detective Chinatown 2’ Still Impresses with Its Fun and Engaging Mystery Intrigue
Tang and Qin team up to solve a murder in New York’s Chinatown.
Director: Chen Sicheng
Cast: Liu Haoran, Wang Baoqiang, Xiao Yang, Natasha Liu Bordizzo
Country: China, United States
Language: Mandarin, English
Runtime: 121 minutes
The Detective Chinatown series can perhaps be best described as an ambitious crossover between Sherlock Holmes and Kung Fu Hustle – that is, it combines the whodunit and action-comedy genres together to form a wacky, but not entirely mindless series. And in Detective Chinatown 2, director Chen Sicheng ramps up the action-comedy bits as compared to its prequel.
Detective Chinatown 2 picks up from the ending of Detective Chinatown, where Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) and Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) are now in New York to solve a murder case. They are enlisted by a rich and old man – who controls New York’s Chinatown as the Godfather – to find out who brutally murdered his grandson. The Godfather also hired several other world-famous detectives who are recognised by a detective phone app called Crimaster, and also the New York City Police Department.
With an enormous cash prize waiting for whoever catches the culprit first, all of them compete to hunt down the prime suspect, whom they believe is Song Yi (Xiao Yang), a Chinese immigrant in the United States. But Qin Feng realises through keen observation that he can’t be the murderer. Nobody else realises this, however, and when Song Yi accompanies Qin Feng and Tang Ren to find the real murderer, all three of them suddenly become wanted by the police, who believe that they are all in cahoots now.
Any lovers of mystery books and films will definitely be engrossed by the main mystery plot as Qin Feng uses his godly deduction skills – reminiscent of Holmes – to figure out the culprit’s modus operandi and his motives. Chances are, even if you manage to guess who the culprit is, you still will have no idea how the heinous crimes are conducted. The film also sets up the revelations and delivers them impactfully without making them too gimmicky.
Just like in Detective Chinatown, there are also bigger mysteries at play in this film besides the main mystery. Who is Q, the best detective in the world who’s even better and faster in solving crimes than Qin Feng on Crimaster? Can Song Yi be trusted? And how did he get implicated by Q in the whole New York murder fiasco? Again, the revelations by the end of the film doesn’t disappoint. Also, knowing that Q’s identity might be revealed in the sequel, Detective Chinatown 3, is actually a good-enough incentive for me to watch it.
As one might expect, with so much at stake for the main characters – being hunted down by the police and by gang members, and trying to find the murderer before he kills another victim – the film is replete with chase scenes and martial arts fights. And all of these were shot in famous New York locations. It’s quite incredible to see, for instance, an empty Grand Central Terminal as Qin Feng and Tang Ren chase down the culprit, or how spectacular New York Public Library looks when the duo goes there to find clues about the culprit.
Qin Feng and Tang Ren also have a knack for getting into hilarious arguments between themselves, given their not-too-complementary personalities and their inclination to pick on each other’s unflattering traits. But the film often relies on crude jokes and stereotypes to deliver its comedic scenes, such as Tang Ren’s lecherous tendencies, which might not sit well with everyone.
And at one point, it feels like the film has shot and edited in too many action-comedy scenes, even if they are done well. The pace and suspense suffer as a result, and many times I caught myself getting bored of the lengthy chase scenes. Perhaps fans of martial arts sequences and slapstick humour might resonate more with this film.
Chen has hoped that the Detective Chinatown series can live up to become the next Sherlock Holmes franchise, and frankly, I truly believe that it has the potential. It has a long way to go, of course. Detective Chinatown might have left a bigger impression in me with its jaw-dropping ending and revelations, but Detective Chinatown 2 is still good at what it tries to deliver. I have hoped that the unclarified parts in Detective Chinatown, especially with regards to Qin Feng’s characterisation, will be clarified in this film, but sadly, no. Nevertheless, this film still makes for a fun movie to watch with its flashy and over-elaborate antics and its decent mystery intrigue.
Detective Chinatown 3 will be showing in theatres islandwide from 13 February onwards.
Detective Chinatown 2 is available for rent on Apple TV.