Chinese Detective <刑名师爷>
aka Xing Ming Shi Ye
Mainland Chinese Drama 2012
Genre: Historical Detective Drama
When this series was announced, the difficulty in this series is translating the Chinese title into English. The producers opted for the sensible Chinese Detective. Some interpret it as Xing Ming Private Adviser or Advisers of Criminal Law. The TV’s English sub uses Secretary Of Jurisprudence, which is what the Chinese book being sold in Amazon uses. I understand the Secretary of Jurisprudence. What the Xing Ming Shi Ye does in this series is investigate, collect evidence and come up with a conclusion to advise the magistrate giving the verdict. So technically they’re investigators or rather crime scene investigators or CSI. But their verdict bears heavily on the magistrate’s ultimate verdict so you can say they’re well… Secretary of Jurisprudence does sound good. Chinese Detective as a title is too simplistic.
So for my review I will refer to this series in its Chinese title; XMSY.
Only in Korea and Malaysia and in DVD at the time of writing this review. I don’t think this will ever see the light of day in China. The DVDs are not even sold there for reasons I do not know. I am sure Youtube will have it one of these days. But technically, 2012.
Roughly based on
A novel of the same title, Xing Ming Shi Ye by Mu Yi (沐轶)
The major differences that I know of is…
1. there is no Duan Ping and for that I suppose no Xia Feng Yi or if there is, she is one of the female leads. I saw some artwork and I swear Duan Ping’s costume and headgear looks like the novel’s Meng Tianchu. It could be my mistake.
2. Meng Tianchu was someone from modern world time traveling to Ming Dynasty China. This was changed due to guidelines in script approvals banning time traveling story. It is replaced by Tianchu returning from Italy.
3. Therefore all the triangular love between Duanping, Fengyi and Tianchu does not exist in the book.
4. It is a series of books, ala Galileo.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Notable ones, taken from Wiki (http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Xing_Ming_Shi_Ye)
Nicky Wu as Duan Ping
Wallace Huo as Meng Tian Chu
He Zhuo Yan as Xia Feng Yi
Wang Wen Jie as Xin Ge (Meng Tian Chu’s servant)
Fei Wei Ni as Huan Fei Yan (Xia Feng Yi’s servant)
Wang Jian Guo as Xia Yi Dao (Xia Feng Yi’s father)
Fang Zhou Bo as Magistrate Xu Hailin
Du Ruo Xi as Zhuo Jia Yin (wine shop owner)
You You as Mo Lian
Cheng De Zhi as Niu Ting Hui (wealthy merchant)
Qi Qing Lin as Feng Xuan
Yan Kuan as Emperor
Yu Yang (于洋) as Lin Rui Zhi
Zhao Dong Bai as Constable Ma
Yan Zhao Hui (鄢兆辉) as Meng Liang
Li Hao Tian as Liu Zhi
Prior to my review, I have posted various posts about this series all under one nice post. You can read them all here at http://www.point2e.com/2012/10/o-xing-ming-shi-ye-aka-detective.html.
As per Wiki (http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Xing_Ming_Shi_Ye)
Meng Tian Chu returns from overseas (Italy) to Ming dynasty China in search of his father (Meng Liang) and solves various difficult and at times perilous mysteries with the outwardly meek, but internally resolute native adviser Duan Ping. The two of them use very different methods to solve the same cases and are constantly at odds with each other while vying for the affection of the same girl, Xia Feng Yi, a butcher’s daughter.
My Plot Summary
Wiki did not get something right. Duan Ping is not outwardly meek, he is a man of Ming Dynasty whilst Tianchu is a foreigner so to speak.
It is the day of the wedding of Xia Feng Yi, a former butcher now turned politician and merchant’s only child and his adopted son, the famous detective of Zhen Hai county, Duan Ping. However their wedding was destroyed by the return of Xia Yi Dao’s dead sworn brother’s son, Meng Tianchu from Italy. Unbeknownst to everyone, even Meng Tianchu, Fengyi was bethroed as a baby to Tianchu and so Yidao stopped the wedding and insisted on Fengyi marrying Tianchu. Tianchu was smitten by the beautiful Fengyi but Fengyi is deeply in love with the quieter Duan Ping and will not agreed to the wedding. Tianchu promises to woo her heart and have her marry him for love and not by force and so Duan Ping had to stand aside whilst maintaining a good relationship with the man who raised him and the man who eventually becomes his friend and colleague.
Tianchu is also a talented investigator, using what is at that time unorthodox methods of investigations where he favours making realistic drawings of the crime scenes and performing autopsies, which is a taboo back then. This is in direct contrast with Duan Ping’s more conservative methods where his investigative style is based on collection of evidence and finally deduction of all evidence gathered without disturbing the bodies or performing lab tests. What is seemingly rivals in work and in love turn into mutual admiration of skills, partners in work and gentlemanly rivals in love. Duan Ping does not push Tianchu away nor does Tianchu use any devious method both in work and love.
Stuck in the middle is a determined and feisty Fengyi who is very sure who her heart belongs to until one day she realises perhaps she has more in common with the more outwardly affectionate and passionate Tianchu who states his mind rather than the more inwardly affectionate and controlled Duan Ping.
Who will she choose and will Tianchu ever realise his dream to be a detective like his idol, Duan Ping?
I might as well tell you the ending. The answer to my last sentence above is …
Open ended and sorta yeah.
There are several reasons to love this series, especially for fans of Nicky Wu and Wallace Huo.
1. neither of them die
2. both gets the girl, losses the girl, sorta gets the girl (in that order)
3. Nicky Wu does not have a kiss scene in here, surprisingly but he gets the hugs
4. Wallace Huo doesn’t really get the hug but he gets the 1 passionate searingly hot and long kiss
5. Nicky and Wallace shares almost equal screentime, but heavier screentime for Nicky and more dialogue for Wallace.
6. Both shares equal amount of running and shots up close their faces.
7. They’re always side by side when they’re together, even the girl doesn’t stand in the middle, she stands by Nicky’s side and only at the end she stands in the middle of the guys.
But the main reason is this series stars 2 of the most likable actors in the industry, the super handsome Wallace Huo and of course the very sexy Nicky Wu. Both of them recently starred in 2 of China’s biggest hits, the former is that The Glamorous Imperial Concubine and the latter, Bu Bu Jing Xin. Since the broadcast of those 2 series, they have went on to film other notable and successful series, but of course none as successful of those 2. And in those 2, both have given us memorable and perhaps their best performances to-date, the former being the violent, temperamental, emotional and ultimately tragic Liu Liancheng and the latter being one of the most controversial emperor in history of China and able to bring out the sensitive loving side of him, 4th Prince who became Emperor Yongzheng. These 2 performances propelled them to in effect super stardom and winning many many awards and so what a better follow up than a series combining these 2 drool factors first time ever as partners in work, rivals in love.
I was excited about this series the moment it was announced and I waited and waited and waited and much to my surprise, Malaysia gets one of the earliest broadcast with decent English subtitles. Oh I was excited and ultimately sorta disappointed.
Make no mistake, for Nicky Wu and Wallace Huo alone, this series is a must watch. You can just stare and not blink. Some may say Nicky Wu is 4th Prince in this series. How wrong that observation is. Some may say Wallace Huo is not funny. Of course, he is not a comedian but he has his fair share of chuckling moments. Each bring to this series a different flavour. And what is really funny is in real life, Nicky Wu is Meng Tianchu but smarter whilst Wallace Huo is Duan Ping but more expressive in his own way. And yet on screen, they’re often cast as opposites of their real life character, especially Nicky Wu. Between them is 7 years difference but because Wallace Huo behaves older than his age and Nicky Wu looks younger than his age, their age difference is not apparent in this series. In the middle there is the much younger looking and much younger in age as well, He Zhuoyan as the female lead and somewhere by the side the more mature looking Du Ruoxi who is in love with Duan Ping.
And then did I mention there was Yan Kuan somewhere in here? Alas he only appears briefly in episode 1 and a much longer appearance in the last episode, episode 30. He looks exceedingly tired but still you can’t dim those handsome features and his awesome expressive eyebrows and eyes. But you won’t get to see him throwing up blood. That privilege goes to Wallace Huo who gets to do that several times.
So many reasons why this series should be a ratings success if it is ever broadcast in China but from what I know it is not making a huge splash. I suppose I understand why and these would be my reasons why I could have disliked this series if not for the 3 main players.
THE LACK OF PLOT & TOO MUCH SILENCE FILLERS
For a 30 episodes series, it lacks plot. Whilst I complaint about Silver Spoons, Sterling Shackles being slow, Chinese Detective is even slower. It is not slow because it takes its time to develop on the characters. Until the end, I still don’t get why Tianchu returns to China or why Duan Ping was adopted. It is slow because everybody talks so slow. The 45 minutes per episode contents can be easily digested into 25 minutes tops if you delete the staring, slow mo, various poses sort of moments, etc. The characters aren’t a lot of people but this series makes it a point to have sayyyy Duan Ping look at everyone before speaking and he looks very very slowly. The typical dialogue being spoken has about 3 seconds delay for the 2nd word and between each sentences another 3 seconds delay and mind you, some speak a lot. There is an episode where half the episode is 4 characters sitting down talking and they didn’t talk much. At some point I was tearing my hair out screaming “Can you please just move on!!” and by the end I got used to this sort of presentation. So my advice when watching this series is to pretend it is a CCTV production. It has the feel of CCTV production, but lacks like 100 people in one scene and the grandeur. It is for me like an art house production of CCTV but filled with popular actors because it is so darn slow. There are possibly 4 characters who speak normal speed and that is Tianchu, Fengyi, Xin Ge and Feiyan and even them between each sentence there is a 3 seconds delay. It is an infuriating aspect except this IS how Mainland China ancients series are. Did you watch 3 Kingdoms? As slow. Probably 5 seconds delay. There are just way too much of staring at left right front back speaking up close shots and a 10 minutes scene have the cameras going round and round and round the characters.
The plot or rather the series in effect can be edited to 20 episodes and even for me 20 episodes is a tad too little plot based on what is in this series.
What I have wanted to see was more background stories which this series lacks. That is why in the end I know very little about the characters.
THE SIMPLICITY OF THE CASES
If TVB is infuriating with everybody confessing to a crime, this series is the King of Confession. Every criminal after being exposed confesses mostly directly except for the child murderer who didn’t confess but you will know his modus operandi. And by confessing, all of them will be executed. And we see zero execution scenes. What we see is Zhenhai has a lot of criminal activities and like Texas probably the highest execution rate. But none of the execution scenes. The closure is lacking because some murderers deserve that sort of closure for the viewers to see. There is a lack of people participation in the cases. As if every case concerns victim from outside of Zhenhai and the murderers not people of Zhenghai.
The main selling plot point of this series is the cases but unlike Galileo which makes the cases the main feature, this series confuses itself by wanting to include everything but in the end excluding the most crucial aspect; an integrity to the cases. All the cases sound complicated. Well the murdering is complicated. The reasonings are for some quite heart wrenching. But like most Mainland China series which tries to depict human emotions, I find the ending for the cases to me lacking in emotional depth. I did not feel for any of the murderers. I felt cold. Something TVB does better is showing at least the emotional depth from the viewpoint of the investigator and even in that aspect this series fails miserably. It seems like just work to these 2 investigators when they’re 2 of the most involved investigators; they do their job because they want to help the people, especially Duan Ping. And then their reaction is almost non existent or rather too calm.
THE CONFUSING CASE OF MENG LIANG
It has no ending for the case of Meng Liang because he was stabbed but we were told never by who. I have my suspicion but it was never explained.
THE GUILT OF XIA YIDAO
Over the death of Duan Ping’s father, which was weird because I never thought what he did was wrong so why the guilt?
THE SUPPOSED COMPLICATED LOVE RELATIONSHIPS
That is between Duan Ping and his godfather or adopted father, Xia Yidao. Even till the end I don’t get why Xia Yidao adopted Duan Ping, my only conclusion is Xia Yidao is deep down a good man who feels guilty for what he did eventhough seriously Senior Duan deserves his ending. The complication arises from the fact Yidao wants Fengyi to marry Tianchu, or that is how it seems until the last 3 episodes or so we see the reason being far more selfish than noble. And stuck in the middle is Duan Ping who Yidao clearly loves but yet does not hesitate to indicate many times he prefers Tianchu as his son in law. Duan Ping stands aside and does nothing. He doesn’t argue, he doesn’t push, he doesn’t bicker, he just accepts Yidao’s preference and yet in his own way fights Tianchu for Fengyi’s affection.
The relationship between Fengyi and Duanping is less complicated but confusing. Fengyi clearly loves her Duanlang (Lang is an affectionate used for someone you love aka your husband/intended/boyfriend). Some point towards the end she calls him Duan Ping, and that marks the change of their relationship. At the end she reverts back to Duan Lang so my conclusion is deep down she still loves Duan Ping. But that is the confusion. In order not to offend any section of the fans of Nicky Wu and Wallace Huo, neither ends up with the girl and yet both seems to share the affections of the girl. She hugs them both at the end, as in linking hands.
At the beginning she calls Tianchu “Pirate!” and Duan Ping “Duan lang”. In the middle “Pirate!” becomes “Meng Tianchu” and “Duan lang” becomes “Duan Ping”. In the end the final scene she calls Meng Tian Chu “Pirate” again whilst Duan Ping becomes “Duan lang”. If there is any indication of the names used, I believe the original script probably ended with Duan Ping and Fengyi, which is the one pair that I agree with.
I mean Tianchu is a nice guy, he did a lot to win her heart but for me from the get go, it was Duan Ping and Fengyi for me. When Fengyi falls for Tianchu, Tianchu backs away and Fengyi angrily says “Meng Tianchu, after all that you have done, after everything you did, did you ever realise I am a woman?” which means as a woman she too will be touched by his actions and Tianchu quietly says “I am sorry”.
Then with Duan Ping she says “With Meng Tianchu… I am just confused…” where Duan Ping quietly says “I wasn’t. I could see clearly. Why don’t we start afresh? I am Duan Ping, you are Xia Fengyi. Don’t call me Duan lang anymore, call me Duan Ping”. So this means he wants to let her choose. Did she choose? From what I can see, no. She is like a pendulum swing but I think when she said “I am just confused” is the operative word. Deep down she loves her Duan lang. And so the last scene to me is an indication she sort of made her choice but it is up to interpretation. For me I just want to her make her choice. I want a definite end because I don’t see a sequel being planned. In fact I don’t think there will ever be any sequel. Of course this would encourage the Team Duan Ping or Team Meng Tianchu. With the amount of time these 2 shares stares and all that, maybe Duan Ping should be with Meng Tianchu.
There’s the relationship between Tianchu and Fengyi. It is understandable for Fengyi to fall for Tianchu. He is more passionate, he did give her her first kiss. I doubt Duan Ping ever did more than hold her hands, in fact it shocked her when he hugged her. He was never expressive but Tianchu being the “foreigner” was the more affectionate one. I like how persistent and consistent Fengyi was in the beginning, smiling when she thought of Tianchu dying and she could marry Duan Ping and Tianchu knows what she is thinking. I like how she wrote a “divorce” letter and showed it in public and Tianchu just looks at her and smiles a little and thinking “Some day I will win your heart”. I like how she thwarted all his efforts and I certainly likes how she is clear who she loves. So when she becomes confused, that was when this series become a sell out. I hate how some episodes concentrated on how she was confused, avoiding her Duan lang, Duan Ping doing things to win her heart and Yidao scolding Duan Ping for being less of a man.
After a while I was hoping the story ends with Duan Ping falling for Zhuo Jiayin, the winery owner with a secret. She obviously loves him, he knows it. The thing about this series is the love relationships are so transparent. You know who likes who with who and all that. I wanted them to end up together. She is more sensible. She is not a pendulum swing.
THE INDECISIVENESS OF XIA FENGYI
I never thought Fengyi was indecisive until this series decided to make her indecisive and I hate that aspect. Just bloody hell give her a husband! Duan Ping! Duan Ping! Duan Ping! But there is one line I do remember which was quite true. She told Tianchu “Before you came into my life, destroy my wedding and my happiness, I was a happy girl. Everyday I think only of how I will marry my Duan lang and how I will spend the rest of my life with him. I was always smiling. But you came back, you disrupted my wedding day, I stopped smiling since, I was miserable, sad. You did all the things you did, flew a kite with my name on it, drew a huge painting of me …. (she lists everything he did)… Meng Tianchu, have you ever thought for all the things you did, you would have affected me? Have you ever thought I am a woman? Meng Tianchu, I am a woman!” which basically means she would have been touched by what he did and would have fallen for him like she just confesses she did. Pretty sad. At that point I just said to myself, “Poor Duan Ping”. Someone gatecrashed into his wedding and now into his fiance’s heart.
THE ENDING OF SOME CHARACTERS
Such as Constable Ma. I liked him so I did not like how it ended for him. It just feels too much like “fake shock” rather than real shock as at the sudden turn of events. Same goes for the magistrate Xu Hailin. As for the 2 imperial guards you will see from episode 1, I don’t get their involvement in the final case. For me it seems so sudden, so convenient and no connection whatsoever that their ending to me felt rushed.
THE FINAL ENDING
The really final ending. Tell me is that wooden ship is not the same Xia Yidao wooden ship!! How strangely undeservedly poignant considering what happened on that same ship moments earlier.
However there are some great aspects of this series that makes it easier for me to recommend this series.
THE COSTUMES/SET LOCATIONS
I love the wedding costume of Duan Ping in the 1st episode, it was so Duan Ping. It was stunning. I love the wedding costume of Meng Tianchu, it was so him. I love Fengyi’s wedding costumes for both as well as that yellow costume she wore sometimes. These costumes highlight the gorgeousness of the wearer. I love how the sets and some costumes have dust, how they look like they have been worn. I love the dust on the sets, the grime, the smoke. The sets felt authentic. It didn’t feel new or clean but used, been there done that and it feels like it was back in those days. Therefore I love the attention to details on what we can see.
A pity the same level of attention not given to the hair especially female characters, often rather silly or too modern. I do however love how proper Duan Ping’s hair is, not a strand out of place and how messy the ponytail of Tianchu, which shows how carefree he is. In fact I love Meng Tianchu’s costumes, the overall look right down to the earring which Wallace himself bought and wore. It felt like he was a foreigner, someone standing apart from the rest such as the ultra traditional and proper Duan Ping. I would have loved to see the same hair, look, except the earring for Wallace Huo as Ling Hucong, not the bathrobe we see he is in. You can’t argue about the costumes and sets. Absolutely gorgeous.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DUAN PING & MENG TIANCHU
I love how civil they both are. Sometimes it confuses me how Tianchu can expect Duan Ping to be cordial with him when every day Tianchu is courting Duan Ping’s love, that is Fengyi. Everyone acknowledges how gentlemanly Duan Ping is, and he is gentlemanly except towards the end for the first time ever, he angrily told Tianchu “Why don’t you return to where you came from?” which of course confuses Tianchu with a sudden change of character and it wasn’t because of Fengyi.
I suppose for Duan Ping, all is fair in love and may the best man win. He is also confident Fengyi loves him enough not to betray him. But when Fengyi had a change of heart, he did not go punching Tianchu. They could still talk cordially. I like how naive Tianchu is in love. But then this series never made love as a squabbling point between the 2 men. In fact love was something they did not even argue on.
I like how Tianchu was so impressed with Duan Ping from the first time he saw Duan Ping in action in court, and I also like how Duan Ping gave Tianchu chances to excel. I particularly like the scene where an emotional Tianchu met with a drunk Duan Ping as Tianchu with tears said “I always admired you! I respected you! I wanted to be like you! Look at you now, a drunkard”. Of course Tianchu should realise he is a drunkard because he knows deep down Fengyi was having a change of heart. Which is why it is also confusing how this aspect was never fully utilised and the 2 men remain civil from episode 1 to episode 30. Very very strange but yet makes for an interesting change.
THE PASSIONATE KISSING SCENE
Only one, and that is between Fengyi and Tianchu. Quite a highlight because he kissed her passionately, she kissed him back quite passionately and in between the super long kiss, there is a voice in my heart saying “Poor poor Duan Ping”. I find myself saying “Poor poor Duan Ping” a lot. I suppose I am Team Duan Ping.
THE VERY LAST CASE
I like the very last case. Even for someone seeking revenge, one particular character was apologetic to his “brother”. Everybody is so polite here, you know? I like how Duan Ping looked at Yidao and reminded Yidao of the promise he made to himself for the purpose of the wooden ship and his realisation that Duan Ping was right. I like what Yidao did even if terribly tragic. I just don’t like how it took the characters 5 full seconds to run to Yidao in the aftermath. Darn slow.
I of course have my preferred ending. I would have preferred Duan Ping to have an upgrade in his profession since everyone thinks very highly of him. So why can’t the emperor made him the new magistrate of Zhenhai and Tianchu as his Xing Ming Shiye? And ends the story not with them 2 with Fengyi smiling but rather that should be 2nd ending. Final ending should be Duan Ping investigating a case with Tianchu and they’re now full partners in work or rather one is superior, one is his worker? Why not indeed? That is to me a satisfying end. Not the nonsense of the indecisiveness of the writer/producers.
I just had a look at the Wiki page where the producers intend to make a series of series for this series so to speak. Really? When they can’t even properly end this one? I doubt they will continue with the same set of actors. They can’t even get this broadcast in China so I suppose the plan must be off or if on, please start with Fengyi married to Duan Ping or even Tianchu. Oh let the poor girl marry someone!!
Believe it or not, the dubbing is actually top quality. They found the perfect sorta playful voice for Wallace, which sounds sorta like the real Wallace except less serious. They found a good voice for Nicky Wu, serious but not dead serious type. Even He Zhuoyan’s dubbing voice sounds good, not too high pitch, not too girly, just right. I believe the voice for the actor who acts as Xu Hailin is his real voice because it sounds like how he looks. I am not sure about the others but for the ones I do know, the dubbing was top notch.
THE OPENING THEME
I kinda like the fact that there is no themesong for the opening theme but a series of drum sort of sounds. I also like how the background music, such as the drum sounds are put to good use in building suspense although some scenes do not deserve such suspenseful sounds. The drum sounds do maketh this series, in a way.
[vsw id=”eFhkEdgDJVg” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]
THE ENDING SONG
The following is the ending theme. Love this song.
There is another song towards the end when we see Fengyi sorta rejecting Duan Ping for Tianchu, sang by a female singer but I am not sure who is the singer and where I can find the song. That song was lovely.
Performance wise, all round rather good for the main players but not so good for the supporting players in those murder cases since I hardly know them and they hardly look memorable except for a few.
Nicky Wu as Duan Ping
I know the criticisms. He is too wooden, he hardly shows emotions, he hardly have any dialogue, he hardly moves, he is just a terribly inadequate bad actor. I personally feel he has improved a lot and he is a much better credit than many gives him credit for but not that great an actor that his fans will like to think of him. He is above mediocre of course. For me he is a good actor, much better at those quiet moments of self reflection and emoting those sad thoughts. He can really cry and cry effectively and gut wrenching pitiful without going overboard. He is at his best when playing a serious person who has some emotional problems. Which is why he was perfect as 4th prince in Bu Bu Jing Xin and therefore, Duan Ping being rather similar is right up his alley.
Interestingly in real life Nicky Wu can be quite silly despite his age, he is a joker and a person who seems very good natured; that sort you can walk right to him for an autograph and he will happily sign one for you. He is also a man whose past has shaped him into who he is today, and so that is why I believe characters such as Duan Ping is really the real Nicky Wu inside, but he puts on a happy face outside.
Duan Ping is not a repeat of 4th prince, even if Nicky Wu stands the way he does in BBJX. Duan Ping is gentler, more stoic, serious but reasonable and a perfect gentleman, so perfect sometimes you wonder is there any passion in this man? Is he capable of any temper? Of course he does and Nicky Wu displays all those emotions perfectly. Problem is the lack of dialogue and the overlong stares with his co-stars before speaking any lines. Sometimes I wish he speaks more. Sometimes I wish he has more lines. Sometimes I wish he just stops fretting and staring and just you know, move side by side or up and down. Other than those superficial criticisms, I have no more I can critique on his fine performance. If you think he was wooden, maybe, but it suits the role of Duan Ping.
Wallace Huo as Meng Tianchu
I love the name Meng Tianchu. I love his looks. I love his costume, his hair, everything except the pirate look. But even for the pirate looks, it works within its context. After all this man sailed the seas for years, kidnapped by several pirates and forced to do hard labour before finding his way to China. So he is a bit skinny in the beginning and looks older than his years. Wallace lost weight for this role and there was once I questioned why and after watching this, I understood why.
How was Wallace? He is playing against type. He is more Duan Ping in real life but always seems to be given either the melancholic roles or this sort of silly roles. But to dismiss Meng Tianchu as silly or fluffy is wrong. He has more substance than the basic story reveals. He cries many times, for various reasons and Wallace Huo is very good at 3 things: quiet contemplation with tears, being tortured, spurting blood. All these 3 he does them beautifully. And you can find plenty of those in here. The only problem with his performance is the writing towards the end drags his character down, and he doesn’t have much to do. But other than that, I can’t fault Wallace who gave a great performance as the smitten passionate Tianchu.
And a little something I posted previously which may be a repeat of the above:-
I still don’t get why it is not broadcast in China though. Must be to their taste because it … is.. very.. very… slow.. like as if every line uttered between each word there is a compulsory 3 seconds pause. But it has got Nicky who looks not good with the HD aspect, He Zhuoyan who looks lovely (I am becoming a fan of hers, I find her very very pretty in ancient settings) and of course Wallace, KING of HDTV [Part 1 | Part 2]. Not a bad angle, never a bad position and even when his skin is not as good as the past, even when caked with spray tan, he looks absolutely gorgeous. He looks older in this series, but the fashion suits him well. In fact I thought minus the earring (which is really a very nice aspect to show the little rebel in Meng Tianchu, by distancing him away from the usual Ming citizens), a bit more dust, less spray tan and with a sword by his side, just that hair that costume, THAT is the look of Ling Huchong (Swordsman) and not the Swordsman’s version of bathrobes outside of shirts.
He Zhuoyan as Xia Fengyi
I doubted her when I first read of her being cast since I didn’t know who she was. She looks ok in pictures. Then I saw her quite sizable role in the Journey To The West 2011 as rat demon, voice probably dubbed but she gave a very eye opener sort of performance as the smitten rat demon. I was intrigued even if I thought she looked pretty ordinary due to the heavy make up. For me every China actress looks alike. I saw her interview with the 2 lead actors and she wore way too much make up.
Then I watched this series and her very first scene was her wedding day and she revealed her blood red lipstick in red costume and I can say, it was an arresting sight. I googled her and I am under no illusion she did something to her eyes at the very least with fake huge iris contact lens. But she looks arresting like I said. When she wore lesser make up, except for her silly hairstyle and sometimes questionable costumes, she actually looks like a beauty from those era. You can’t find someone with her sort of chubby looks these days. She is slim, not skinny but slim and I hope she doesn’t go sucking the facts out of her face. I really like how she looks and the more I watch her the more I like her. I find her very very beautiful, not drop dead beautiful but something about her. She also looks like a leading lady in her own right, sandwiched between 2 gorgeous men and many veteran actors. No doubt, she can act.
Her Fengyi at the beginning was feisty, you can understand why Tianchu likes her. She is determined, single minded and knows what she wants. It is that Fengyi that I really like, until she sorta fell for Tianchu, then fell again for Duan Ping, then became a pendulum swing, and that was when I felt the Fengyi I liked has been destroyed by the fickle mindedness of the writer who doesn’t want to offend Wallace or Nicky’s fans and so she chose both or maybe she chose none. I would like to think she chooses Duan Ping because it seems that way. But her first few appearances were wonderful. Love how she just scolds Tianchu and next become very gentle with her Duan lang. I also love how she does not hesitate to hug her Duan lang’s arms whilst basically giving the deathly stare at Tianchu. What a pity the series did not give her character a proper end and making her cry and sulk so often towards the end.
Du Ruo Xi as Zhuo Jia Yin
I have heard of Du Ruoxi, who is girlfriend/wife of another gorgeous man, Yan Kuan. Lucky her. She looks ok, but what surprises me is her performance. It was rather good. The way she stares at Nicky’s Duan Ping, wanting to hold his hand but can’t, being in love with a man whose heart belong to someone else. She did all those scenes adequately and frankly I have not much complaints. In fact I would have hoped Duan Ping end up with her rather than being with the pendulum swing.
Wang Wen Jie as Xin Ge (Meng Tian Chu’s servant)
Fei Wei Ni as Huan Fei Yan (Xia Feng Yi’s servant)
These two plays servants to Meng Tianchu and Fengyi, respectively and I don’t mind giving you spoilers, they marry at last. After 2 disrupted wedding, the 3rd wedding was a success, except it is between these 2. Wang Wenjie as Xin Ge is someone I have never seen before but he is really cute. There is something quite effective about his innocent sort of looks and I find him rather handsome, even if his hair needs some serious combing. Performance wise, again not much complaints. As for Fei Weini as Feiyan, again someone I never seen before or maybe I have but never noticed, the casting of her as a nosy but loving maid is perfect and she again gave a performance that I can’t nitpick on. The only problem with these 2 is that they don’t have much roles and not much to do.
Of all the veterans, 3 were the main ones;
Fang Zhou Bo as Magistrate Xu Hailin
Zhao Dong Bai as Constable Ma
Wang Jian Guo as Xia Yi Dao
Of all 3, the weakest was Zhao Dongbai but then his Constable Ma doesn’t have much to do in terms of acting except for the last 2 episodes or so. Wang Jianguo was excellent as the troubled father with a dark secret, Xia Yidao, although the script failed this character by not developing his story further. The actor however did justice to the role by giving him more than the script gave him. Fang Zhoubo as Magistrate Xu Hailing was also fantastic as the cowardly magistrate who also has a deep dark secret. I was disappointed at the turn of events for these 3 characters which we have seen from episode 1 but I suppose the series has to end with a bang. It wasn’t a huge bang but I understand the logic.
The Murderers & Victims
Of all the cases, for me the silliest was the case of Mo Lian who wanted to die and yet died in someone’s wedding. The most impossible has to be the case of Meng Liang because how can an ordinary fisherman plan so much things? The most heart wrenching was of course the woman who was raped exacting revenge on those who failed to protect her. But I find her case ended too sudden, not much development given, if the writer did, it would have been a very very good story to develop on. The most illogical one had to be the rich guy who challenged Duan Ping and so murdered a child and kidnapped several others. Why children? The story never explained. And many more.
All these stories stars different actors as victim and murderers, none of them I know. They were all the weakest links, in part because of their underdeveloped stories and also because of their underwhelming performance due to lack of time. The one that did stand out was that child killer. He was creepy. The rest were pretty ordinary to me. And for a series that boasts investigation as its main theme, the fact that I find the cases, murderers, and victims pretty ordinary will basically mean the series failed in its primary purpose. I wouldn’t argue with that assessment because it is true. There is just no suspense.
The Guest Performance
Only one actor qualifies for this heading and that is Yan Kuan as the Emperor. Poor Yan Kuan, forever the walk on role. He appears very briefly in episode 1 and a longer scene in the last episode at the almost last scene when all the drama is over. He looks tired, but other than that, he looks like a pissed off Emperor. What more can I say about Yan Kuan that I haven’t said? Handsome, tall, strongly built… he can be Duan Ping but then Fengyi will then have no reason to look to Tianchu in terms of looks. But it would have been a great Liu Liancheng-Meng Qiyou reunion. Anyway it was a nice guest appearance and I wasn’t surprised since I already knew he would be in this series.
Top notch performances with some engaging moments but overall, it is 10 episodes too long due to lack of contents and the weakest link is supposedly the main feature, the investigations. The producers should look at Galileo on how to write weird cases and the solutions.
This is strictly for fans of the 3 main stars. Now, for fans of Wallace Huo and Nicky Wu, you will be satisfied with the performances and often extreme closeups of their faces. Acting wise, no complaints. For fans of He Zhuoyan, you will be surprised at her performance as the feisty Fengyi. Just ignore the fact that Fengyi really has nothing much to do other than following her Duan lang or later her “pirate”. This series main feature is to me the fact that it has 2 of the current hottest stars in China (maybe you can add a few more but these 2 are searingly hot) in terms of fame, looks and acting and they could have just stand there and do nothing and still I would have watched eagerly. It did go terribly wrong with the story development. But if you can stand the slow mo actions and 3 seconds pause between each sentences and the CCTV like art house production feel, I am sure you will appreciate the costumes, the sets, the attention to details and of course the 2 searingly hot guys.
Therefore I highly recommend this series, to fans of these stars. If you’re not a fan, I will advise you to stay away because it takes a bit of patience to watch this series.
ABOUT THE DVD
Yes, there is a DVD (official one) being sold in Malaysia which is..
1. HD quality therefore picture quality is 10/10
2. Box very nice, and some thought put into the design and therefore packaging is 8/10
3. The sound quality is top notch and so rating by me is 10/10
4. Got Chinese and English subtitles which appearance sake is 10/10
5. Quality of Chinese subtitles – undetermined
6. Quality of English subtitles is between 0/10 – 3/10. It started well and becomes progressively bad to the point some part are not translated whilst some parts are translated badly. What is supposed to be “My son” or “Nephew” becomes “Niece”. A total change of gender. No fansub yet but I am sure there will be because this series seriously needs a good fansub and since dialogue is not much, should be easy to do. I hate how so much attention on packaging, etc and yet not much attention on the subtitles. This lack of attention is just lazy, cheap and destroys the integrity of the series. My recommendation is if you know a little Mandarin, the subtitles can sorta guide you but if you know zero Mandarin, believe me, the subtitles are of 10% help only. What a disappointing farce.
In short, only buy the DVD if you know Mandarin, knows how to read Chinese or know a little Mandarin.
For more info on the DVD itself, do check out my unedited review of this series here at http://point2e-reviews.blogspot.com/2012/11/chinese-detective-tvrchina2012.html
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.