Monday, May 23, 2011

The Detective 2 (B+ Jing Taam / B+侦探)

Open Your Eyes

There's no Me Panda opening here, so out goes the original treatment of the story of Aaron Kwok's stumbling detective Tam we got ourselves acquainted with in C+ Detective which involved some supernatural elements right up Oxide Pang's alley, and in comes something that's more serious in tone and treatment with an upgrade of sorts to a B+, although the narrative was found to be wanting, with key elements from the first film that made it successful doing a disappearing act, much to the detriment of fan-converts.

A celebrity now amongst the police and private investigative circles picking up from where we left off, Tam and his cop buddy Chak (the evergreen Liu Kai Chi) find themselves embroiled in yet another serial murder spree involving seemingly unrelated victims and indecipherable motives. They are as random as can be, which forms the main crux of the pursuit of justice for both Chak, staring down a possible promotion even though he's now working under the much despised Inspector Lo (Patrick Tam), and for Tam, another shot at cementing his reputation. Expect the usual red herrings thrown up in any investigative thriller, and there you have it, except that this time round Tam doesn't have any push from the supernatural as invisible assistants.

Which is one of the key ingredients that shouldn't have been totally removed, because it made deduction and rationalizing of clues a lot more interesting than having Tam sit on a park bench and, well, talking to himself. It makes for a better visual spectacle where Oxide Pang could have milked moments to make you jump at your seat, otherwise it was rather morose when Tam needed to go into deep thought. But that's not to say Kwok did a bad job. In fact, he continues to showcase his acting and dramatic chops here, and while I was never a fan of his to begin with, he has earned my new found respect as a serious actor who's constantly improving.

And his chemistry with Liu Kai Chi is what buddy cop movies are made of, sharing this impeccable bond on screen that made their exploits believable, and moving in some ways even, as the killer, for reasons only known to writers Oxide and Thomas Pang to decide on revealing his identity just before the midway mark, pushes both men to the boundary, and perhaps I shall say on one hand permanently decided on how any follow up movie can progress from here, and on the other provided some much needed emotional sucker punch as the sympathizing moments for the killer just didn't cut it as much as the filmmakers had tried. In fact that came out a little hokey and quite unbelievable, that the intent involving the lesser of two evils could have pushed someone over the edge completely.

Shot in Thailand, you can imagine why Oxide Pang continues to revisit his hometown because of the richness in character that the country, and Bangkok in particular, bring to the visuals, through the many dimly lit alleys and corners, and cluttering of space that makes the film look extremely claustrophobic and uncomfortable, the sort of environment that our detective thrives in. Technically this film is remarkably beautiful for its dark visuals and twisted tale, and no fault here in the craftsmanship of the filmmakers, made up of a Thai crew including those involved in post production, to bring about that sense of dreadfulness that befall our hero at every turn. The gory and creepiness factor got brought over from the first film with that signature framing and cutting away from the most violent and horrific of scenes, and that provided some level of consistency brought from the first film if not to keep you glued to the screen.

But ultimately this film seemed to wear on as it plodded to the inevitable finale, which was an unsatisfying conclusion since Oxide Pang destroyed what was essentially the saving grace of the film featuring the friendship between two firm friends established from C+ Detective, and instead chosen to open doors to a cliffhanger that leads onto the next film, if it does indeed gets made. If it was an intended trilogy, and a promotion at that of Tam to A+ finally coming of age and maturity in his handling of cases, then it is most unfortunate that B+ Detective fell prey to the middle movie syndrome in not being able to keep up with expectations set by its predecessor.

A+ for atmosphere, technicalities and acting, but a firm D in its storyline that seemed hobnobbed together in a desperation for closure.

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