comscore ‘Detective Chinatown’ offers familiar themes with a twist | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

‘Detective Chinatown’ offers familiar themes with a twist


    “Detective Chinatown 2” stars Liu Haoran, left, Xiao Yang and Baoqiang Wang.



(R, 2:01, China)

In a case of bringing coals to Newcastle and selling snow to the Eskimos, “Detective Chinatown 2” is an action movie imported from China. As we already have that aspect of cinema covered many times over — and as this is only an OK version of the form, nothing outstanding — it would be hard to make a case for why anyone, or at least anyone who doesn’t speak Mandarin, should run out to see this movie.

However, there is one thing that will be of particular interest to American viewers, and that’s seeing America through another culture’s eyes. The film takes place, for example, in New York City, and something about the physical portrait of New York is just a little different from anything I’ve ever seen. The buildings and the bridges look beautiful, bathed in an unnatural kind of sunlight, while the streets are menacing.

There are guns everywhere, and stereotypes, as well. One of the characters teaches a Chinese-language class to African-Americans, who all turn out to be heavily armed gang members. At one point, someone goes into a biker bar, and the bearded white bikers all have machine guns. Meanwhile, the chief of police is a big, heavy guy with weird hair, a Trump lookalike, who says that the president should build a wall on the West Coast to keep the Asians out.

But some things are universal. For example, the detective duo consists of a funny guy, Tang (Baoqiang Wang, who looks like an Asian “Columbo”-era Peter Falk) and a more laid-back, handsome guy, Feng (Liu Haoran). They’re in New York, along with a consortium of other detectives, to find the perpetrator of a series of ritualistic murders. If they crack the case first, they’ll win a $5 million prize. There to provide occasional assistance is a Chinese-American NYPD detective, played by the very poised Australian actress Natasha Liu Bordizzo.

The pace is quick, very quick by American standards. The script blasts through reams of plot with lightning dialogue, and even if you have a fast eye for subtitles you may come to the end of the movie with no clear idea of what happened.

Still, there’s a nice fluidity to director Chen Sicheng’s filmmaking, as when the characters discuss the various crime scenes and we suddenly find ourselves moving seamlessly from location to location. The special effects are first-rate, as when Feng imagines Manhattan island and starts flying through it in his mind, moving some buildings aside and uprooting others that are in his way. The original, “Detective Chinatown,” grossed more than $100 million in China, and money was clearly lavished on the sequel.

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