This could have been labelled A+ Detective, but I suppose the filmmakers here didn't want to sound too pompous in what would be a logical title in their Chen Tam detective series of films, with Conspirators being the third film, and possibly primed for more. But even if director Oxide Pang stops here with what would be his best creation, this would already be one hell of a memorable trilogy that ended on a high note, with Aaron Kwok to thank for fleshing out the protagonist with gravitas and emotion, engaging audiences on such a roller coaster ride through investigations that have finally touched on a more personal account.
Gone are the supernatural elements, violence and gore, but in their place is a solid back story of Chin Tam's origins, and written in a smart way to avoid being labelled a prequel, or rebooted into a parallel universe. It's still moving in real time from where we last left off with B+ Detective, with the skeletal remains of Chen Tam's parents being the catalyst and premise in which this movie takes off from. After all, Chen Tam's profession of choice came from their disappearance, and what now than to demonstrate his detective skills than to hunt down the mastermind being his parent's disappearance and murder. But he can't do it alone as the case brings him across borders to unfamiliar territory, so he enlists, in quite random fashion, the help of a Chinese private eye in Malaysia, Zheng Fung Hei (Nick Cheung).
The partnership isn't easy from the get go, since both parties have their respective, duplicated skill sets, coupled with Fung Hei's fees that remain quite the stickler, but as the plot wore on, their partnership is set to grow on you, albeit spending quite a duration of the film apart, following their respective leads, rather than together. But when they do, both actors show why they have in recent years been winning acting awards, as their chemistry is ace. Their investigations bring them both deep into the rabbit hole of a major drug cartel operating in Malaysia, who want them to stay quiet and preferably dead, which opens up the narrative to a number of impressive action sequences that combined practical stunts and CG really well, such as that fantastic explosion and leap by Chen Tam through a glass window, and a more than usual number of car crashes that didn't seem to bother the Malaysian police. But I digress.
The look and feel of the film is kept consistent with that of the earlier films with its gritty look, and while some scenes involving Chen Tam may seem a little bit at odds at time, take my word that they will be fully explained and you will tip your hat at the director's, and possibly editor's, directions. Red herrings, conjectures and hypotheses get played out, and the fun is to follow the private investigators as they systematically close them out. It makes for an engaging viewing, and especially so when time got invested in the narrative to allow us to understand the leading characters a little further. While Chen Tam is already a veteran character at this point, now haunted with his causing of a good friend's death, we get a little bit more of Fung Hei as we learn his twin brother was set up by the same cartel and got sent to jail, so this also provides for that little bit of a personal agenda as the two detectives expend effort, and work on trusting each other's professionalism a lot more.
Shot in Thailand, Malaysia and China, it is the human emotions on display here that makes Conspirators well worth the watch. At times you may find certain elements being a tad convenient, but it's all good by the time the final, poignant scene rolls in. With excellent cinematography despite being handheld and shifting to highlight the urgency and mean streets that the characters inhabit, and that unforgettable Mi Panda Thai song that comes on as the credits roll ‚Äì this bookends the trilogy ‚Äì that this installment ends the three films on a high, and dare I say the best entry in the franchise too, while leaving the door wide open for continuation, and possibly a spin off. A definite recommend!