“LADY DETECTIVE SHADOW” is directed by Si Shu-bu and stars Shang Ring as the titular character. Written by Hu Rong this story follows Lady Detective Shadow as she travels across ancient China in search of the one responsible for a string of murders. As she traverses the countryside passing through villages ruled by bandits and Imperial leaders Detective Shadow will begin to peel back layers to a much darker mystery that she could have ever expected.
This sub-genre of film is not for everyone. Despite being brought to the attention of the mass public with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” the window of quality in this realm of film is narrow. If too many fantastical elements are used in excess these films can come across as slightly cheesy. If the budget is lacking and the effects cannot be done with a certain level of visual appeal these films can easily look cheap and pull the viewer out of the story no matter how compelling it may be. This film does ride the line on both sides at times to be honest but for the most part I think it was a success.
The fight-sequences were surprisingly capable with nicely crafted choreography. There were also frequent fight scenes littered in which for me was a bonus. It kept me engaged and with a variety to both the sequences, and with the eccentric characters. It was able to keep a fresh appeal throughout as I felt genuinely interested to see what would happen next. The various fight scenes incorporated some fun weaponry and different fight styles. It also works in some of the notable wire-work that admittedly shows the budget limitations of the film. The visual appeal is somewhat hindered in this department with the means at the filmmakers disposal being limited. However there were other instances where that smaller budget was able create a sort of fun nostalgic vibe (whether intentional or not) that I felt was very entertaining as a fan of this genre of martial-arts films.
The story-line was more than engaging enough I would say. Not all the dialogue works and some of the humor is very clunky. I’ve seen this issue in other films like this so it could be a simple matter of the sense-of-humor not working to my personal tastes. But as for the plot itself, I thought the progression was interesting. It felt like a time-period detective story blended with a martial-arts film and the two dynamics worked nicely together. I wouldn’t say all the story directions hit for me but enough of them did to keep my curiosity up as to where the mystery would go. Plus, there was frequent action to keep the pace and the energy up.
In the end this isn’t a perfect film. But it also isn’t one with a massive budget. I think it would have benefited from a lack of reliance on green-screen work and opted for some practical locations to up the quality immediately. There are some scenes that while watching just feel like a lack of effort and not simply budget restrictions. But with a solid lead performance from Ring there is a solid character here to invest in. Some parts of the film show more ambition than others but when all put together it was a movie that does provide some entertainment with enough substance to create a fun martial-arts filled mental escape at home on the comfort of your couch.