Based on a popular series of novels written by real-life forensic pathologist Qin Ming, and which has already yielded three successful TV series, Li Haishu and Huang Yanwei’s Whisper of Silent Body stars Yan Yikuan as forensic pathologist Qin Ming (yes the author made his hero a handsome and brilliant alter-ego to himself, how cute), a man of extreme dedication to his job, a legend in his field and a popular media figure in the fictional city of Chongjian. Together with his new intern Fan Jiajia (Dai Si), who’s not-so-secretly in love with him, he collaborates with police detective and frenemy Lin Tao (Geng Le), who’s not-so-secretly in love with Fan, on investigating the murder of a loan shark, with the prime suspect being crazed former martial arts champion Kou Yong (Shi Yanneng). But it soon appears that this case is directly connected to several recent deaths in the city.

Whisper of Silent Body suffers from the same shortcoming as a few recent big-screen adaption of detective fiction, like Alec Su’s The Devotion of Suspect X or Roy Chow’s The Great Detective: for all its grandstanding about its hero’s remarkable scientific and/or deductive skill, it features very little science or deduction, relying instead of heavy exposition when comes to time to reveal the truth, and spending more time on making the lead as handsome and dashing as possible. And so, for all its heady talk of how forensic pathology makes the dead tell their story, the film just doesn’t have much forensic pathology to show or explain, instead taking unconvincing shortcuts such as Qin Ming’s ability to correctly guess body temperature by merely touching the cadaver.

Of course, crafting a thrilling film that’s set mostly in morgues and labs would require skill and invention, and the script (credited to co-director Huang Yanwei and four other writers) displays only a little bit of the former and none of the latter. Instead, it dwells too much on a trite romance in the typical and tiresome “lovestruck female assistant cutely pines over her brilliant yet uptight and oblivious boss” template, with Yan Yikuan and Dai Si’s blandness not helping matters, and two pointless love triangles – one with Qin’s old flame, played by Du Juan, who as expected displays even less life and warmth than the cadavers in the story, and one with the excellent Geng Le, sidelined though by far the most vivid character in the film. There’s also a smattering of aimless yet reasonably inspired phantasmagorical interludes, and a few solid action scenes (here Shi Yanneng’s martial arts and solid presence come in handy), including a rather gripping one atop a skyscraper. Then, the passably engaging mystery is solved with twenty minutes of explanations; apparently, forensic science is no match for narrative exposition.

Long Story Short: A passably entertaining thriller, Whisper of Silent Body is bogged down by bland leads, a trite romantic subplot, and a lack of narrative skill to match its fascinating subject matter. **1/2


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