By Janine Gericke.
Conspirators is the third film in Oxide Pang’s Detective trilogy, beginning with The Detective (2007) and The Detective 2 (2011). All three films star Aaron Kwok as detective Chan Tam. Pang should be somewhat familiar to American audiences, having given us a remake of his own film Bangkok Dangerous (2008), starring Nicolas Cage, and the horror film The Messengers (2007).
Conspirators follows Tam as he travels home from Thailand to Malaysia to search for answers in his parents’ murder. Tam partners with private detective Zheng Fong-hei (Nick Cheung). After some initial procedural plodding, the action in the film picks up quickly, kicking off with a high-speed car chase involving Tam and Zheng and some men who want them dead. Although some of the action scenes are a bit gimmicky, Pang makes it works when he needs to. The film is peppered with slow-motion car crashes, which seems to be a staple of almost every action movie.
In one scene, Tam and Zheng are having an argument that is quickly disrupted by a group of men. We track the two detectives through a shaky camera as they fight each other, when some men come rushing toward them. Suddenly—in extreme slow motion—a man runs at them with a machete and it drives directly between them, narrowly missing. When he tries going after Tam again, the same slow motion effect kicks in. The fights are fun, but Pang beats the audience over the head with gimmicks. However, aside from some funny camerawork the fight choreography is really well done.
It may be because I have not seen the first two films, but Conspirators left something to be desired. Although the two leads have great chemistry, the film felt like an empty retread. I felt no connection with any of the characters and their motives were lost on me. Aside from Chan Tam, who decided to become a detective because of what happened to his parents, there was no clear reason for the action of any other characters.
Evidently the ending of The Detective 2 plants the seed for the action in the third film, when Tam is given a clue about his parents. Maybe this is just a film that you cannot jump into without having seen its predecessors, or maybe this is just a film that follows too many formulas from the action movies that came before it, but something was missing. The setting, action, and style were interesting enough that I do plan on watching the first two films, and maybe then I will revisit this one too.
Janine Gericke is a Film International ‘In the Field’ writer.