Seeing Zhang Han, William Chan and Yang Yang together in a single frame is already a treat, what's more, when an entire TV series is devoted to them as the leads.
Without further ado, I present The Four 少年四大名捕, a detective wuxia with high-flying sword fights that make up a good twenty minutes of the first episode.
Episode 1 begins with a storyteller narrating the impending duel between the four evil disciples and the four great detectives.
Heartless (Yang Yang), Iron Fist (Mao Zi Jun) and Chaser (William Chan) attack first, each meeting their match in a grueling battle from sunrise to sundown.
The big baddie An Zhi Geng (He Sheng Ming) simply observes from afar until he sends Yan Zhao (Qian Yong Chen) to confront Cold Blood (Zhang Han).
Just as the detectives gain the upper hand, snow falls and An Zhi Geng smirks at the heaven sent opportunity. He creates an army of warriors whose combined attacks turn Cold Blood into a living sculpture.
Yan Zhao attempts to take advantage of the situation but the detectives stop him in time. Nevertheless, the enemies prove to be too formidable that the good guys are on the verge of losing.
During the most critical moment, Cold Blood's eyes turn bloodshot and his superhuman strength breaks the ice, defeating the enemies in one fell swoop.
Heartless, Iron Fists and Chaser congratulate Cold Blood for achieving a breakthrough in his martial arts skill to win the battle.
The constables of Liu Shan Men have come to take the prisoners into custody in order to take credit for the entire operation. The four were initially unwilling to yield, yet Cold Blood orders their retreat upon learning that a bigger case is in their midst.
Elsewhere, Chu Ying Xue (Janine Chang) is forcibly taken to her father who starts kneeling and begging her to marry the emperor.
Ying Xue has been chosen to become one of the emperor's harems and she would rather die than go willingly. Desperate, Master Chu allows his mistress to drug Ying Xue and she wakes up enroute to the palace.
Refusing to let fate ruin her life, Ying Xue plans a night of extravagant revelry and drinking and runs away with the other young maidens just as their guards lose consciousness.
Back at the Divine Deputy Bureau, the detectives report the events to Zhu Ge Zheng Wo (Huang Wen Hao) and it soon becomes clear that the duels were a diversion to distract from the real conspiracy - the murder of powerful politicians along with their households.
To help with the investigation, the Bureau sends men to Liu Shan Men to collect the four evil disciples but they arrive a step too late.
An Zhi Geng has saved his lackeys though in a cruel twist, he poisons them in exchange for their complete allegiance, which will be crucial in the next stages to come.
First Impressions: I like the parallels behind pitting Heartless against a long range fighter, Iron Fists against a weapon wielder, Cold Blood against the leader.. you get the gist. It's a spectacle for entertainment's sake devoid of dialogue yet it does the deed of properly introducing the four main characters.
Zhang Han acts cool as a cucumber as always that he's practically typecast for the role but I can't deny that he does alright for what is required. Yang Yang is visibly younger and less experienced but an eye candy nonetheless. And William Chan as the comic relief?! How interesting since I've only seen him as a macho hero. Mao Zi Jun may be the guy that I ultimately ignore just because I don't know of him yet but let's wait and see.
The Four is a combination of classic wuxia and modern filmmaking. Sure, there's a lot of posturing but it works.
Rate your favorite Chinese historical dramas in 2016.