In Chinese comedy-mystery movie Detective Chinatown 2, a detective duo takes on the Big Apple to hunt down the killer of grisly serial murders by using feng shui (also known as geomancy) as clues.
With the infusion of Chinese color into the plot, the movie was shot largely in New York City, including many landmark locations like Times Square, Fifth Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge, making it attractive and intriguing to home and international audiences alike.
Not only was the movie shot in a U.S. city which is home to the largest Chinatown in the country, it was also the first Chinese-language film shot in the United States in collaboration with the unions.
The movie starring Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran is the sequel to 2015’s Detective Chinatown and the second franchise of action comedies to be shot in Chinatown around the world. It was opened into 115 theaters in North America on Feb 16 in a day-and-date limited release with its wide opening in China.
Detective Chinatown 2 has grossed over $1.98 million in North America and $531.9 million worldwide as of its close date, April 5, marking it the fourth-highest-grossing ever in China, according to studio figures collected by boxofficemojo.com.
“This is a funny and exciting film,” said David Li, an American Chinese man in his 50s, who came to see the movie with his wife in an AMC theatre in Monterey Park, one of the majority Asian American cities in Los Angeles County.
“We have watched Detective Chinatown 2 and Operation Red Sea recently. Those films are popular in China and many my friends are talking about the plots,” he said.
“Chinese filmmakers have already learned a lot from Hollywood and begun to make films with more Chinese characteristics. But it’s interesting that this film is actual a Chinese film with American element,” he added.
“With a combined $1 billion plus in box office for Operation Red Sea and Detective Chinatown 2 already earned in China, both are smash hits and clearly massively popular with moviegoers in the home country,” said movie analyst Paul Dergarabedian at comScore.
In the first quarter of 2018, China’s box office overtook North America to become the biggest in the world for the first time, as Chinese films perform stronger and stronger led by Operation Red Sea and Detective Chinatown 2 and so on. Grosses for China in the first quarter totaled more than $3.1 billion , compared to $2.89 billion in the same period in North America.
“The question remains as to whether English language versions of such films could break out and find mainstream success in North America,” Dergarabedian told Xinhua.
Zhu Yifan, storyboard artist of the Detective Chinatown 2, told Xinhua that she believed the Chinese blockbuster already made some breakthrough as it is the first Chinese movie filmed with a unionized crew in the United States.
The American way of work in the film industry is very streamlined and standard while the Chinese way focuses on efficiency and creative collaboration, Zhu said. “When the two teams worked side by side to fulfill a challenging task during the shooting, that created a fantastic chemistry. We became very good friends by the end of the 45-day shooting in New York.”
“And this is just a beginning. As Chinese film industry grew, more overseas collaborations are bound to come,” Zhu added.