The comedy and detective rom Detective Chinatown has been a hit with viewers this New Year season. That’s been good news for director Chen Sicheng, who desperately needed a win at the box office after his last two duds.
Wang Baoqiang plays Tang Ren, a formerly famous detective who escapes to Thailand and spends his time gambling and wandering about. Qin Feng, played by Liu Haoran, is his talented nephew.
When Qin fails the exam to join the police, his grandmother sends him to Thailand for a vacation. Qin expects to find his uncle the same sharp detective of his youth, but is crestfallen when he learns Tang has become a dirty bum.
Qin’s plans to return to China end up postponed when Tang ends up tangled up in a crime: a murder and theft for which he is the only suspect.
Now on the run from Chinese police, Thai police and a group of three bumbling gangsters, Tang has no choice but to rely on his aspiring detective nephew to prove his innocence before he can be arrested.
They ultimately break into the police station to obtain security footage and return to the scene to see what happened. They eventually find the criminal and the stolen gold and solve the case.
If the detective movie ended here it would be utterly forgettable and cliches.
But as Qin is about to leave, he notices a bar on the street which appears in the police record and remembers the real murderer should have been a woman. He goes back to the murderer’s daughter to tell her his guess.
The film never confirms whether Qin’s guess is correct, but the girl’s expression during the confrontation suggests he is.
Detective work is the heart of the film, and it’s clearly inspired by popular Japanese detective fiction like Detective Conan and Kindaichi Case Files. Detective Chinatown has the distinction of being one of the only Chinese detective movies to leave viewers satisfied.
Director Chen Sicheng spent months researching for the story. He read numerous detective books to try and learn which formulas worked and why. Although one scene in the film imitated the old Hong Kong comedy Hail the Judge, it created an appropriate comedic effect in the film.
Chen is best known for his acting role in the 2006 TV series Soldiers Sortie. He made his directorial debut with the TV series Beijing Love Story in 2011. Two years later, Chen adapted the show for the big screen but failed to make an impression.
Actor Wang Baoqiang is known for his role as an honest and kind soldier in Soldiers Sortie. In this film, he plays a completely different, comical character. Wang speaks with a Hebei accent, but for his role in the film he attempts to feign a Cantonese accent for comic effect.
Liu Haoran’s performance was surprising after his debut role in the Beijing Love Story Movie.
Tong Liya, Chen’s wife, also contributed her talents to the movie as Tang Ren’s beautiful and sexy neighbor. Famous Chinese comedians Xiaoshenyang and Chen He also had excellent performances in the movie.