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Detective Chinatown 3 (Tang Ren Jie Tan An 3, 唐人街探案3)

Director – Chen Sicheng – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 136m

****

The Chinese franchise’s super-sleuth and bumbling sidekick join forces with their Japanese and Thai counterparts in Japan – out in cinemas on Tuesday, January 25th and 26th only

No sooner have the brilliant crime-solving sleuth Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) and his likeable if barely competent sidekick Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) flown in to Tokyo and met their contact there, the sharp and colourful Hiroshi Noda (Satoshi Tsumabuki), than they find themselves embroiled in one of the most seriously bonkers action sequences in the movies in recent years when members of (at least) two gangs suddenly attack in the airport to the inspired accompaniment of the pop song ‘Welcome To Tokyo’ (which gets rolled out again for a cheerful, cast of thousands, song and dance routine accompanying the end credits). Extensive mayhem ensures. A man rolls down a long flight of steps in an oil drum. Two groups of smartly uniformed and skirted women do battle (one group in red, one in blue – stewardesses from rival airlines, perhaps?). Workmen in hard hats and overalls descend from scaffolding to join the melee.

Knowing this will be an impossible act to follow, the film then throws in a pursuer Jack Jaa (Thai martial arts sensation Tony Jaa from Ong-bak, Prachya Pinkaew, 2003) on the Tokyo subway before having the trio flee him on go-karts while he comes unstoppably and hilariously after them by stealing a child’s bicycle with tiny wheels.

When the narrative later gets into its plot proper, about one gang lord Masaru Watanabe (Tomokazu Miura) having apparently murdered rival Chaiwit, Jaa turns out to be a Thai detective with whom our trio join forces. Also on the case is Inspector Tanaka (Asano Tadanobu). Murata’s secretary and key witness Anna Kobayashi (Masami Nagasawa) is kidnapped by all round bad guy Akira Murata (Shota Sometani) and imprisoned in a giant, slowly flooding water tower. It turns out that Murata is merely a puppet in the hands of mysterious villain Q who was never unmasked or apprehended in Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng, 2018).

The first three quarters of the film has a lot of fun with all this, shifting effortlessly between no holds barred action, genuinely funny knockabout Hong Kong comedy and thriller. The mostly tedious last half hour, however, sends Tang away to Thailand (including an hilarious impromptu vomiting contest on a boat), takes itself rather too seriously and goes all out for the thriller aspect, which really isn’t its strong suit. Cue lots of seriously irritating, convoluted plotting.

This curious misjudgement is compounded with some straight-faced courtroom drama and rather too much explanatory whodunit exposition before bringing Tang back for the closing minutes, which are a return to form. Despite the miscalculation in its closing reel, it remains a lot more fun than many comedy films out there, and when it’s good it’s very good. Which is, basically, the first hour and a half and the final five minutes. In UK cinemas for two days only, but well worth seeking out while it’s there. Hugely enjoyable. A treat.

It makes for an interesting comparison with ManHunt (John Woo, 2017), another Chinese movie with a Chinese hero trying to solve a crime mystery in Japan.

Detective Chinatown 3 is out in cinemas in the UK on Tuesday, January 25th and 26th only.

Trailer:

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