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Chinese language cinema

Detective Chinatown 2 film review: frenetic comedy sequel takes a wildly reductive picture of contemporary America

Chen Sicheng’s sequel about a bashful sleuth lured to New York milks cheap laughs from men dressing up, stealing a horse or dropping their trousers in an America full of gun-toting gang bangers, Trump lookalikes and closeted bikers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 7:01am

2/5 stars

As the epilogue of Chen Sicheng’s Detective Chinatown promised two years ago, the action moves from Bangkok to New York in this high-energy, lowbrow sequel, which has already proved a monster Lunar New Year hit in China.

Bashful sleuth Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) is lured to the Big Apple by his motormouth uncle Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) to help bag a US$5 million reward for solving the murder of a Chinatown kingpin’s grandson. The cash has attracted all manner of wannabe Sherlocks – including a smooth-talking detective (Satoshi Tsumabuki )and a teenaged Taiwanese computer hacker (Shang Yuxian) – any one of whom could be “Q”, the mysterious champion of a popular crime-fighting app.

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What follows is a frenetically paced fender bender, a cross-cultural sugar rush, as our mismatched heroes team up with Xiao Yang’s oddball suspect, and pinball around Manhattan using a combination of deductive reasoning, feng shui and blind luck to catch an organ-harvesting serial killer.

No opportunity is missed to milk a cheap laugh from men dressing up as nurses, or superheroes, stealing a horse or just dropping their trousers – all while Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York is played on a seemingly endless loop. Liu’s resourceful introvert is repeatedly overshadowed by Wang’s excruciating bumpkin, who threatens – as he did first time out – to derail an otherwise slickly executed crime caper.

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The eclectic supporting cast includes Hong Kong veterans Yuen Wah and Kenneth Tsang Kong jostling for screen time alongside Michael Pitt as an oddball surgeon, and Natasha Liu Bordizzo ( Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny ) as the local detective tasked with wrangling the throng of amateur snoops.

Detective Chinatown 2 paints a wildly reductive picture of contemporary America, which it populates entirely with gun-toting gang bangers, Trump lookalikes and closeted bikers. While the broad stereotypes are mostly harmless, it’s interesting to note the lack of any meaningful interaction between the visiting Chinese heroes and the long-term Chinatown residents.

Detective Chinatown 2 opens on March 15

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