LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT (2017) review

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Based on a best-seller by Japanese author Baku Yumemakura, this massive, 200-million dollars production – whose enormous sets are soon to become an amusement park – is a uniquely ambitious co-production between Mainland China, Japan and Hong Kong. It takes place in the year 805, as a mysterious black cat stalks the imperial palace in Chang’an, just as the gravely ill emperor Dezong dies from a violent fit ; the same cat appears to Chen Yunqiao (Qin Hao), captain of the imperial guard, and to his wife Chunqin (Zhang Yuqi), revealing to them a cache of money, but asking in return to be fed eyes – the eyes of any creature, including humans. Buddhist monk Kukai (Shota Sometani), who had arrived from Japan to meet the emperor and senses the presence of the black cat, joins forces with scholar, poet and newly-fired imperial scribe Bai Letian (Huang Xuan) to unravel the mystery: they soon realize it takes its root thirty years before, when Tang emperor Xuanzong (Zhang Luyi) had his consort – and legendary beauty – Yang Yuhuan (Sandrine Pinna) killed. A known historical fact, about which Bai Letian has been writing a poem for the past few years: and yet it may be a lie, as the personal account of Abe no Nakamaro (Hiroshi Abe), a scholar who knew the emperor and his consort, seems to reveal.

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DETECTIVE CHINATOWN 2 (2018) review

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As promised at the end of 2015’s delightful and very successful Detective Chinatown, the unlikely duo of straight-laced amateur detective Chin Feng (Liu Haroan) and his loud, unhinged distant cousin Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) are back, this time in New York, where they have been summoned by crime boss Uncle Seven (Kenneth Tsang), along with the other top detectives on a high-standard crime-solving app named “Crimaster”. Uncle Seven’s son was recently killed in a temple, and his heart was removed from his body while he was unconscious but still alive; the crime boss thus offers five million dollars to whoever can catch the killer. Assisted by Chinese-American police officer Chen Ying (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), the rag-tag bunch of detectives – which includes brilliant hacker Kiko (Shang Yuxian), Japanese dilletante Hao Yetian (Stashi Tsumabuki), as well as an Indonesian witch and many more – soon establish a link between this case and the murder of a woman, whose liver was harvested from her body while still alive. This makes Song Yi (Xiao Yang), an illegal Chinese immigrant who was spotted at both crime scenes, the primary suspect. Now it’s a chase to whoever will catch him first and collect the prize money – but Chin Feng knows this is too simple.

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DETECTIVE CHINATOWN (2015) review

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Chen Sicheng’s second film as director after his successful romantic anthology Beijing Love Story in 2013, Detective Chinatown follows the unlikely duo of Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang), a Chinese expatriate in Bangkok who calls himself a private investigator but is actually more like a swindler, and Chin Feng (Liu Haoran), his distant cousin who pays him a visit to take his mind off his latest failure to enter police college. The zany Tang and the strait-laced Chin are an unlikely fit, but soon they have to set their differences aside as the former is accused of the murder of an art smuggler. The two competing sergeants of the Bangkok Chinatown police station (Chen He and Xiao Yang) are in a race to bring him to justice, as the one who does so is sure to become the new commissioner. Chased not only by the police, but also by a local crime boss (Chin Shih-Chieh) who thinks Tang stole his gold, and a trio of thieves who actually stole that gold but also think Tang stole it from them (Xiao Shenyang, Sang Ping and Zhao Jingjun), the two cousins can only count on the help of Tang’s landlady (Tong Liya) – whom he no-so-secretly loves – as they try to clear his name by looking for the real killer. It helps that Chin has an almost Sherlock Holmes-like capacity for deduction, and an endless knowledge of detective fiction.

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