Aaron Kwok returns as oddball private eye Chan Tam in “The Detective 2”, teaming again with director Oxide Pang for a sequel to their highly popular 2007 mystery thriller. Aside from a new case for Tam to solve, the film offers a different approach by aiming for a more psychological angle, venturing into some pretty dark and complex territory along the way. With Liu Kai Chi (“The Way we Were”) and veteran Patrick Tam (“The Storm Warriors”) also returning, the film adds several supporting cast members, including Eddie Cheung (“Vengeance”), Izz Xu (“Child’s Eye”), and upcoming Mainland Chinese actress Gong Beibi.
Set again in Bangkok, the plot sees Kwok as private detective Tam being asked by police force friend Fung Chak (Liu Kai Chi) to assist him in investigating a particularly nasty serial murder case. The killings certainly seem to call for a man of Tam’s talents, involving three apparently unrelated victims, all slain in gruesome and possibly symbolic fashion and with no clues to speak of. Things quickly become even more complicated when Tam butts heads with the rest of the police force and he and Chak find themselves pursued and threatened, he is forced to turn to even more unconventional means to solve the deadly puzzle.
According to the Chinese title, “The Detective 2” represents Tam having been bumped up from “C+ Detective” to “B+ Detective”, and the film certainly does see him having developed somewhat as a sleuth. Although he still has the same odd dress sense and questionable taste in shirts, he comes across as far more intelligent than in the original, or at least more focused, and does propel himself along on his own theories and schemes rather than being bounced about by random incidents and baffling guesswork. Thankfully though, Pang hasn’t forgotten what made his character interesting in the first place, and the film still packs in plenty of bizarre behaviour, sudden explosions of weirdness and lots sequences of him sitting around and gibbering to himself – the film is one of the few where this kind of soliloquy style actually exposition fits. The role of Tam is one which continues to seem very much tailor made for Kwok, allowing him to push the boat out in terms of kookiness, though whilst reining things in just about enough to remain likeable and engaging, avoiding the excess of the infamous “Murderer”.
As with the first film, the central mystery itself is quite adult, and although not much is graphically shown, some pretty nasty stuff is implied, with limbs being hacked off and a young woman being violated in horrible fashion. Interestingly, the narrative spends as much time fleshing out the backstory and motivations of the killer as it does with Tam, weaving in plenty of flashbacks. This approach works quite well, helping to overcome some of the film’s scattershot investigative work, though sadly some early hints that Pang is trying to suggest some kind of commonality between the murderer and Tam are never really developed beyond their both being orphans. The film is generally unpredictable, and although some viewers may feel a little manipulated by the leftfield nature of the final answers and resolution, there are enough twists, some surprisingly grim, to keep things interesting. Another slight criticism is the fact that the film is setting itself up for a sequel, which does result in a handful of pointedly unanswered questions, though for followers of the series this need not be too much of a problem, especially since Pang makes this clear from the start.
Unsurprisingly, the film has some very strong visuals, with some excellent use of dark and moody colours, creating a shady, ambiguous world that fits the overall themes and feel perfectly. Mercifully, with just Oxide at the helm, the film isn’t a full on Pang Brothers affair, and whilst there are a good few striking moments peppered throughout, its devoid of the kind of CGI and slow-motion overload which hampered “The Storm Warriors” and other joint outings. As a result, though the film is still a bit too long, and could have used with some trimming (in particular some of the scenes of Tam simply sitting around and thinking), it still moves along at a decent pace and keeps the viewer reasonably gripped throughout.
“The Detective 2” is definitely a worthy follow-up, and successfully gets around the problem of being the middle film in what looks certain to be a trilogy. Aaron Kwok is again good value for money in the lead, and the film makes for an entertainingly solid and offbeat mystery that should more than satisfy fans of the burgeoning franchise.
Oxide Pang Chun (director) / Oxide Pang Chun, Thomas Pang (screenplay)
CAST: Aaron Kwok … Tam
Beibi Gong … Ke Er
Kai Chi Liu