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The Detective 2

The Detective 2

Aaron Kwok keeps an eye on things in The Detective 2.

Chinese: B+偵探
Year: 2011  
Director: Oxide Pang Chun
Writer: Oxide Pang Chun, Pang Pak-Sing
Cast: Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Liu Kai-Chi, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Jones Xu, Ciwi Lam Sze-Man, Wang Ziyi, Renee Lee, Gong Beibei, Rex Ho Chun-Wai
The Skinny: Solid if underwhelming effort from the usually underwhelming Oxide Pang. Aaron Kwok's return to his dorky "B+ detective" role offers up some minor thrills and chills, but little in the way of character development or actual need. Warning: the movie sets up a sequel. If that sort of thing annoys you, well, too bad.
by Kozo:

Chan Tam is nearsighted, kind of dopey, wears entertaining shirts and solves crimes - of course he deserves to be the star of his own film franchise! Despite nobody really asking for it, Aaron Kwok returns as the “C+ Detective” in The Detective 2, a sequel to Oxide Pang’s 2007 hit called, naturally, The Detective. During his time away from the screen, Tam has grown in his profession. His adventure in the original Detective earned him some notoriety, and his shirts are not as lousy as they used to be. Tam is now a “B+ Detective” (which the Chinese title notes), indicating that there’s still some room to grow. Does Tam take the opportunity in Detective 2 to move up to "A" grade private dick status?

Not really, though Tam is clearly better than he was when he owned the “C+” label. Unlike the first film, where Tam bumbled, cowered and cajoled his way through cops and crimes, this time he’s much more composed. Tam offers some wild theories but also some strong insights into his latest case, a series of grisly murders of seemingly unrelated individuals, among them a man with his naughty bits lopped off and a young woman with a blunt instrument shoved where it shouldn't be. Tam is drawn into the case by old pal and cop Chak (Liu Kai-Chi, returning from the first film), but he encounters red tape from Chak’s haughty superior officer Lo (Patrick Tam), who besides not liking Chak also doesn't like near-sighted private detectives. No matter, Tam is game and doggedly seeks answers, his insights and guesswork eventually helping him solve the case. Woohoo! Spoiler!

Backing up a bit, it would be big surprise if Tam didn’t solve this mystery because he has to do something before the much-hinted-at Detective 3 rolls around. The film ends with a huge set-up for another installment in Detective Tam's career, but we’ll cover that when they actually make the sequel. For this installment, it’s actually fun to see Kwok return as Tam, as it's a role that plays up Kwok’s amusing dorkiness. Even though he’s more capable and suave this time around, Tam still has some rough edges, which leads him to the occasional mistake or freak-out. Tam apparently has some fantastic abilities, too; sometimes, it seems that sitting around and thinking real hard allows Tam to psychically solve crimes. Those sequences are told with appreciable style, but regardless it’s still a guy talking to himself and suddenly finding all the answers. It might work in books, but less so in movies.

Also, the film really isn’t about Tam. The police investigation is told concurrently with the story of a disturbed young boy (Wang Ziyi), his adopted older sister (Ciwi Lam), and how the boy can’t reconcile the loss of his parents. There’s some parallel between the boy and Tam, as both are orphans, but while the connection helps solve the case, it doesn’t really do anything for Tam. He doesn’t change or grow as a result of what happens, making this Detective installment seem more like a TV episode than a self-contained film. That’s not a flaw as much as a trimming of expectations, however, and when the pieces of the mystery together come together the end result is still a decent if minor thriller. There’s reason for why the killer acts and neither the killer's identity nor motive comes out of left field. Pretty much the worst thing you can say about the film’s mystery is that it's not that shocking or affecting. Basically, the emotional content is a little lacking. Silence of the Lambs this is not.

It’s not like Oxide Pang is Jonathan Demme anyway. He’s just a competent commercial filmmaker whose output has seen plenty of ups and downs – and considering that, this effort isn’t so bad. As a one-off exercise (or three-off, if one is locked-in for the entire Detective trilogy), Detective 2 does suffice. Pang’s use of style is welcome and effective, and some of the grislier moments are handled creatively. Also, as is usual with a Pang production, the art direction is top notch. The filmmakers make Thailand (that's where the Detective movies take place, not Hong Kong) look like the kind of hot, dirty place where an oddball private dick would be sweating and muttering while trying to solve multiple murders. Since it's only filler between a prequel and a sequel, and there isn’t enough personal development for Kwok's character, Detective 2 feels rather light overall. But, as the ending indicates, there’s more to come. Now let's see if it'll take another three-and-a-half years for them to make Detective 3. (Kozo, 2011)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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