China Daily

Police drama makes for arresting viewing

Realistic approach to tackling crime sees TV series win praise for acting and plotlines, Xue Mengchen and Xu Fan report.

- Contact the writers at xufan@chinadaily.com.cn

Bomb explosions. Gun fights. Car chases down narrow alleys. Such adrenaline-filled scenes often pop into our minds when picturing a crime movie or TV drama.

However, the actual police officers’ work to hunt criminals is a more time-consuming yet less dramatic procedure most of the time, as observed by the creators behind The Dragnet, a TV series that has recently made a splash online.

Backed by the Ministry of Public Security, the 38-episode television drama now available on the streaming giant iQiyi is based on several real stories of Chinese police officers’ overseas operations to tackle crime.

Currently, the drama has notched up 8.6 points out of 10 on iQiyi and 7.6 points on the popular review site Douban, with its major audience being men aged from 30 to 35, according to the producers.

Teaming up a dozen veterans, such as actor Wu Gang and Simon Yam, as well as actresses Ke Lan and Yu Feihong, the series has seen directors Yu Chun and Lyu Zibo join hands to shoot for more than six months from late 2019 to mid-2020.

The TV drama traces three cases in detail: persuading witnesses to return to China; transnatio­nal telecommun­ication fraud and assisting local law enforcemen­t personnel to crack down on Chinese immigrant gangsters.

Producer Li Xiaoning says the creators spent two years reading, studying and watching documentar­ies, as well as interviewi­ng police officers who have participat­ed in overseas assignment­s to get firsthand informatio­n.

“We have heard many interestin­g stories. In foreign countries, Chinese police officers don’t have law enforcemen­t power. They need to overcome a lot of obstacles, varying from language barriers to cultural gaps, and seek help from Chinese embassies to establish cooperatio­n with local police forces,” says Li.

Chinese police officers who are assigned to overseas tasks are usually highly educated, speak English fluently and master knowledge of the law in foreign countries, Li adds.

Director Yu, a veteran who has worked in the television industry for more than a decade, says he and Lyu set out to be as realistic as possible before shooting.

“One of the top rules that Chinese police officers should follow is that they must comply with local laws and regulation­s. So, it usually takes a lot of time in negotiatio­ns,” says Yu, explaining that the TV series, as a result, has more dialogue than action sequences.

Ke Lan, a veteran actress who plays a female police officer, says she had online talks with the archetype of her character to gain more inspiratio­n.

“She is a brilliant woman and an outstandin­g police officer. Through the video chats, I saw she has a tiny mole on her face, so I drew one on my face, too. When I was shooting the TV series, this tiny mole always reminded me to think that if I were her, what my reactions would be like,” she says.

With its popularity online, the TV series has also gripped the attention of industry observers and researcher­s.

Yin Hong, deputy chairman of the China Film Associatio­n and a professor at Tsinghua University, says The Dragnet marks a breakthrou­gh in highlighti­ng Chinese police’s overseas campaigns.

“The rise of China on the world stage has laid a realistic foundation for TV tales to display Chinese security force’s effort to protect the safety of Chinese nationals overseas, making such stories convincing and relatable,” says Yin.

Wang Yichuan, chairman of the China Literature and Art Critics Associatio­n, says The Dragnet exemplifie­s local talents’ new effort to expand storytelli­ng techniques of re-creating China’s overseas missions, regarding it as the latest successful work following previous similar-themed blockbuste­rs such as the 2016 film Operation Mekong.

“With a sophistica­ted blending of suspense and realistic details, the drama has demonstrat­ed Chinese police officers’ wit and courage, reflecting China’s determinat­ion to battle against crime and protect national security,” he says.

With a sophistica­ted blending of suspense and realistic details, the drama has demonstrat­ed Chinese police officers’ wit and courage.”

Wang Yichuan, chairman, China Literature and Art Critics Associatio­n

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 ?? PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY ?? Clockwise from top left: A scene from the TV series The Dragnet features police officers going abroad to tackle cases; veteran actor Wu Gang, as police officer Gao Xiaotian, is set to bring gangsters to justice; plaincloth­es officers, played by Wang Yu (left) and Ma Yinyin (right), check informatio­n on a computer; officers recognized at an award ceremony in the series.
PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY Clockwise from top left: A scene from the TV series The Dragnet features police officers going abroad to tackle cases; veteran actor Wu Gang, as police officer Gao Xiaotian, is set to bring gangsters to justice; plaincloth­es officers, played by Wang Yu (left) and Ma Yinyin (right), check informatio­n on a computer; officers recognized at an award ceremony in the series.

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