Thursday, March 13, 2014

Film Review: Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (2013)

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (Review)
China/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Well Go USA)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"I liked all of the action sequences..."

After several warships are obliterated by a sea dragon, young detective Dee (Mark Chao) arrives at the Imperial Capital to become an officer of the law only to find traces of another sea monster haunting the city...

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon follows detective Dee, the competitive detective Yuchi (Feng Shaofeng), and former prison doctor turned Dee's assistant Shatuo (Lin Gengxin) as they set out to find the sea monster who's oddly attracted to the courtesan, Yin (Angelababy). Their investigation consists of interrogation, old friends and resources, and quick wits. They're able to link both creatures -- the sea monster of the city and the suspected beast that attacked the ships -- to one mastermind criminal with sinister plans. Filled with slick and stylish action sequences, the lengthy Young Detective Dee eventually reaches a satisfying conclusion -- the mystery is solved, but it's never really effective -- I've seen more surprising resolutions in episodes of Law & Order and Scooby-Doo.

Young Detective Dee is a mystery-action film. A great mystery makes you want to take a notepad out and participate, a good mystery keeps you wondering and engaged but not fully invested -- Young Detective Dee is the latter. I wanted to see where it was going, but the mystery never really felt like a mystery. The story is interesting enough, as is the mystery, though, and it has plenty of action and some humor to keep you hooked. The action is very fast -- fast movements and different styles of combat, like swordplay and martial arts. And, I liked all of the action sequences, especially the final action sequences. What I didn't like about Young Detective Dee was the complicated introduction; also, the first act of the film feels sloppy, it has a lack of consistency and flow; some of the odd and cheesy editing choices also make it feel Direct-to-TV.

Mark Chao is a capable actor, but lacks charisma for such a quick-witted character. Feng Shaofeng is also great in his role. The cast was generally great. The set and costume design were beautiful, but the cinematography, which isn't half bad, didn't really let them shine. The special effects range from fantastic to mediocre; up-close and when it's blended with live-action sequences is when the computer effects look bad; from afar, the special effects can match with some blockbusters. Tsui Hark is great in capturing the action, but the film lacks effective direction and vision during the first act.

Overall, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is a very good action-mystery film. The action is mostly fantastic and creative, and the mystery offers enough to keep you interested -- it won't blow your mind or shock you, but it'll keep you, at the very least, interested. It just falls short of greatness, but it's worth watching.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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