Starring Mark Chao, Angelababy, Feng Shaofeng,Lin Gengxin, Carina Lau
Fight Choreography by Lin Feng and Yuen Bun
Directed by Tsui Hark
Tsui Hark scored a hit a couple of years ago with Andy Lau in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, a film I really enjoyed, and hoped to see Detective Dee return, and return he has, this time a prequel to show how Dee became a Detective to the Emperor, and his first case, a daunting one involving secret cults, politics, and not one but two sea monsters. Since this is a prequel, the role of Detective Dee goes to Mark Chao and comes with even bigger special effects than the previous film, and I had just as much fun with this film as the original.
Young Detective Dee starts with the Emperor’s Royal Navy being demolished by a large sea creature of Godzilla proportions (or at least Gamera), and the people, in their superstition, decide to sacrifice the local courtesan Yin to the Gods to stop the monster. An attempt to kidnap her is foiled by the newly arrived Dee and Detective Yuchi (Shaofeng) but things take a strange turn when a creature emerges from the waters and tries to kidnap Yin. Dee’s unorthodox manners land him in jail, a familiar place for him considering that’s how he started out in the original film when we first meet him. Dee is able to escape with his “Watson” in the form of prison medical guard Shatuo (Gengxin) and together they continue their investigation into the mer-man and the giant monster, and soon find themselves before the Empress (Carina Lau, reprising her role from the previous film) and an entire royal court in danger. Detective Dee must find the culprits and solve the cases of both the Mer-man, the sea monster, and their connection to Yin, else the Empress will have their heads (Yep, she’s just as nice as she was in the previous film. No wonder Dee doesn’t like her.)
Young Detective Dee is an exciting, fun romp in a world barely seen in the original film. Giant monsters, strange islands, people with weird abilities, and cures involving piss, and a horse that can swim underwater while being chased by said creature is just a little of what awaits in this stellar sequel. I was afraid that something would be lost without Andy Lau returning as Dee, but Mark Chao is up to the challenge of playing Dee, and is able to bring off Dee’s intelligence, wit, and a bit of youthful smugness added to the mix. Carina Lau is the only returning cast member from the previous film, and she is once again great as the smarmy Empress (she is a great foil for Dee in this regard. She cares only about herself, and sees Dee as nothing more than a tool). Shaofeng is also good as Detective Yuchi, a man who both likes Dee but hates Dee at the same time for being right nearly all the time (Hopefully future films will show more of their discord), and Angelababy does the job as the beautiful damsel in distress who knows more than she is letting on. Of course Dee can’t function right without his partner Shatuo and Gengxin does a great job being the nervous but equally brave doctor. The special effects are iffy in some places, but are great when it counts, and the sea monster is something to see when it finally appears in all its freakish glory.
The martial arts is strewn throughout the film, and are well done, but like the previous film add a little spice, but there is more here than in the previous film, and they are well done, mostly wirework and special effects, but good nevertheless. It is the pace of the fights and the staging that are fantastically realized, and the crazy fantasy make the impossible moves believable in their world.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9
I enjoyed this film more than the original, which I didn’t think could happen. A rousing mix of action, adventure and fantasy from the Legendary Tsui Hark that takes us into the origin of Detective Dee. So when do we get a sequel?
This film was released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Wellgousa Tuesday, February 11th. I highly recommend it!