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Saturday September 28, 2013 MYT 8:00:00 AM
Saturday September 28, 2013 MYT 11:41:19 AM
By Aidil Rusli
THERE’S concern that Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, a prequel to Hong Kong director Tsui Hark’s 2010 hit Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame, will be misunderstood by film critics in Asia simply because it’s a commercial hit in a genre (period kung fu films) that’s a dime a dozen over here. When you add the fact that both are also very fun films, worlds away from the more “serious” and artier films by the likes of Zhang Yimou or Wong Kar Wai, then you have the potential for a film to be grossly underrated.
So, let me warn you out right – ignore this infectious film at your own peril. Those who have watchedPhantom Flame will know what I mean when I describe these Detective Dee films as irresistible. Unlike his 1990s peers like John Woo or Yimou, Hark has never been afraid of letting a fair bit of silliness into his movies. Let’s just say that if other wire-fu movies are like Bruce Lee, then Hark’s tend to be a bit more Jackie Chan in their eagerness to please, sometimes going so over-the-top that we can’t help but surrender to the entertainment.
And if you think Phantom Flame was already deliciously excessive, then Young Detective Dee offers even more bizarre sights, like the titular sea dragon, a Kappa in love with a beautiful courtesan, and Ninja-ish villains who seem to have a penchant for bees, flowers and creepy crawly parasites.
When you add the very game young cast, then it’s obvious that this film has got energy to burn. Playing the young Detective Dee is Mark Chao (of Monga fame), taking over from the very able Andy Lau in the previous film and acquitting himself admirably by sprinkling youthful cockiness into his portrayal.
The movie begins with him arriving for the first time in the capital, Luoyang, to report for duty with the Da Lisi, the Justice Department.
A crisis hits the Tang Dynasty when a small naval armada sent out by Empress Wu is easily decimated by the sea dragon, resulting in the city’s noblemen and people offering the city’s most beautiful courtesan, Yin, as human sacrifice. Caught in the middle of all this is Yuchi (Feng Shaofeng), the head of the Da Lisi, who’s been tasked by the Empress to solve the sea dragon predicament within 10 days.
Being an inspired blend of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and period martial arts movies, it wouldn’t be a Detective Dee film without the heady mix of characters and goings-on. So, it doesn’t disappoint, with kidnap attempts on Yin by two parties, traitors within the Da Lisi and, most amusingly, a subplot involving an attempt to poison the Palace officials and the Emperor.
As wonderfully fantastical as the sights might be in this film, the CGI takes a little bit of getting used to. Thankfully, the story moves at such a frenetic pace that after a while, there’s no need to complain.
And once the bad CGI is out of the way, it comes down to what really counts in blockbuster films – limitless imagination and a whole lot of fun!
Tags / Keywords:
Movie review, Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, Mark Chao, Angelababy, Carina Lau, Lin Gengsheng, Feng Shaofeng
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