Looking back at "Detective Chinatown"

Casey Chong

Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) and Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) as two mismatched partners in "Detective Chinatown".

The unlikely detective duo of Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) and Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) are making a comeback with the highly-anticipated sequel to China's box-office hit, "Detective Chinatown".

No doubt it has been three years since we last saw the duo solving a case and wreaking havoc at the same time, and boy do we miss them!

Best described as China's modern version of "Sherlock Holmes", "Detective Chinatown" was a huge hit back then.

The movie even ranked as one of the top 10 highest-grossing movie in China, raking in a whopping total of RMB 820 million at the Chinese box office.

So, what makes "Detective Chinatown" such a hit among the critics and audiences?

Tang and Qin looking for a way to escape in "Detective Chinatown".

First things first, the story. Written by Chen Sicheng ("Beijing Love Story") himself, who also doubled as the movie's director, "Detective Chinatown" sports an interesting hook: A so-called private detective, Tang Ren, who lives in Bangkok finds himself being wrongfully accused of the murder of Sompat (Eakachai Thamma) and stealing tonnes of gold from the robbery. Problem is, Sompat's death was both mysterious and peculiar. Let's just say it has something to do with a locked-room mystery.

Things get complicated when Tang not only becomes a target of both competing high-ranking police officers (Chen He and Xiao Yang), but also a trio of thieves (Xiao Shenyang, Sang Ping and Zhao Jingjun) who demand their gold back. In order to clear his name, Tang unexpectedly teams up with his distant visiting cousin, Qin Feng, a failed police recruit who particularly loves detective fiction and has a sharp eye for deduction.

One of the hilarious scenes in "Detective Chinatown".

The locked-room mystery itself is interesting enough to keep you guessing. Who is the actual murderer? And most importantly, how does the murderer actually kill Sompat and leave the crime scene undetected?
Thanks to Chen Sicheng's complex storyline, "Detective Chinatown" is no doubt a solid whodunit which is inspired from some of the famous detective fiction from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" short stories and novels, to Gosho Aoyama's ongoing "Detective Conan" Japanese manga series.

It also rare to see a China-made movie actually feel like watching an 80s madcap Hong Kong comedy where anything can happen along with the inclusion of different genres mashed altogether into one movie.

You could say "Detective Chinatown" is a part murder mystery, part comedy, part twisty psychological thriller and even part action movie.

Speaking of action, director Chen Sicheng was obviously inspired a lot from Hong Kong movies itself. In one particular elaborate sequence where Tang makes a daring yet wacky escape from the police station, it sure looks like a set-piece straight out from a Jackie Chan movie. There is even a food fight in a market partially inspired by Jackie Chan's "Project A Part II". Remember? It's the one where the bad guys get their eyes smeared with chilli bits.

A scene from "Detective Chinatown".

Another huge contribution to the success of "Detective Chinatown" is the gamely playful cast led by Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran. Both of them display great odd-couple chemistry as mismatched partners. Tang is clumsy and more of a hapless fool who brings more harm throughout the movie. Qin, on the other hand, is a stuttering young nerd who is adept in deducing like a great detective. Whether watching them bickering against each other or working together to solve a puzzle, Baoqiang and Haron are no doubt the heart and soul of the movie.

Now, the question is, can the sequel able to recapture the magic of the first movie? Well, watch and let your deduction skills be put to good use!