[all pictures and gifs from baidu longmen express bar]
Cool, huh?! The drama is nothing like it lol, except for some fleeting moments it’s roasting itself and every wuxia/period dramas.
This is more like it:
The Theme song One Night in 塞外(boonies) official MV gives a good read what is in store:
With the brilliant very first line in an authentic Biaoju command: 亮镖威 合吾 合合吾啊~~~! (Call of Biaoju’s Arms! Hi-5 HiHiHI-5 MY BUDDIES~~~~~~~!) and the pair of babes chanting ‘Oh Yeah~! Oh Yeah~!!‘ throughout, the leads are all singing and dancing to some fine CG Chinese brushwork, with real C poetry and opera thrown in, but they are also wearing modern outfits as if heading out a Fri night in Shanghai. The lyrics is written by the main draw of the show, scriptwriter/producer himself 宁财神/Ning Cai Shen, he is one of the rare breed of scriptwriter who is a well-read writer first and foremost, his main stage is a playwright in the theater. His previous TV work was My Own Swordsman, 7 years ago. I have read of nothing but sweet fond words on that little drama that was such a surprising cult phenom back in 2006, garnering a 9/10 rating out of 50000+ votes amongst Douban visitors. This is its lesser child by all regard from the critics and audience alike, but still it’s nothing like anything out there in Cdramaland…perhaps since My Own Swordsman. <- I’m now determined to tackle that next, all 80 freaken episodes! Longmen Express is a marriage of creativity and a shrewd business plan. Mr Ning is now famous and rich and perhaps his drive could never be as simple and pure as during the time of his breakout hit. This has enough heart, but also infested with too much commercialism. If this is near perfect in writing, I won’t say a word, but it is so not. I would even jab the writing is the weakest link in the third act. Yet, let me stress, this is still better than 99% of the brain-frying stupidest fluff that is not even good fun dominating the air wave. I’ll take 99 of this, please!
Oh how long since I have laughed till I cry, laughing while crying, laughing till I need to pause and catch my breath, crying then laughing and back to sobz?! Too long. But this drama did that to me and more. Half the episodes are meh tbvh, can totally see Mr. writer slacking and cruising along, but when it’s hitting it, it’s so sweetly spot on unique a beast I’ve never seen before in Cdramaland. Nothing is safe from being jabbed for a good chuckle, and this is changing the landscape: Mr. producer/writer himself watched along with netizens in the new trend of drama-watching experience, where live commentaries are flying on the screen, from anyone who has anything under the sun to say. Anything. It is distracting to purist, but it adds a new dimension of fun and interaction never before. Mr. WriterProducer even welcomed critiques and suggestions on the streams. Not just that, the set and cast is gathered and ready for re-shooting Mr writer/producer claimed, catering to the audience for its second run in syndication. WOW. I think this is cunningly shrewd, I like this very much! I’m used to rant and grumble my hearts out here and there, but other than letting frustration out, it is an exercise of futility, now the snarky Cnetizens have a SAY in tweaking the final production. All the merrier! I’ve just finished the entire 40 episodes. It’s a bumpy ride, but as the last scene rolls, I’m smiling, I’m sated, I’m overwhelmed with warm fuzzy feels, I’m promised a second season next year. I can’t be too greedy asking for much more than that.
This is the famous writer’s show, obviously brimming with gags and puns raining like bullets in a JohnWoo, though he got carried away inserting every meme (and there is none he doesn’t find clever enough), sacrificing the storytelling, the whole second half has little narrative cohesiveness. The transitions are not always smooth, the characterizations can get inconsistent. The characters are not terribly loveable in the strictest sense, but boy, bravo to this terrific acting job of the ensemble cast down to some of the worthiest cameos I have seen. I am sternly alone in saying out of all dramalands, C/TWidoldramas are suffering fr the most hideous acting all around. This is the rare case where the acting is all around brilliant, even when the star of the show, the writing, is not always cutting it. If you need a breather from compromising on barely serviceable acting in a Cdrama, look no further. Welcome back HuangXiaoMing to the drama world in a most romantic cameo tailored for you, and the best job I’ve seen you in Cdramaland a decade+ or ever! When my Loverboy is at the bottom of the barrel, you know what terrific OMFG! actorly feasts are installed.
And really, it’s just refreshing for once to see writing in a trendy with sparks of brilliance, not complete insult to intelligence, warts and all. There are sensible eloquent speeches written for ‘baddies’ I’ve learned life lessons from, nodding my head away, suppressing the urge to applause. This is supposed to be ‘kuso-wuxia’ sitcom most of the time, so when I’ve heard of peeps weeping their eyes out on certain story arcs, I was snarling, ‘tskkk you wimps!’ totally prepared to snerk it off, till I have pingpongeyes myself, of course, after the episode. This drama has forever a soft spot in my heart.
All 40 eps are on yt here
I love all the songs on the OST, love every song choice, every use of music, which has never ever happened in a Cdrama, and this one tune still gets my eyes misty every time, no fail.
我以为你的眼泪 会让我瞬间崩溃 我以为我的颓废 能让你无路可退 我以为转身以后 就可以不再流泪 我以为你能体会 我此刻的意冷心灰 万丈红尘有你做陪 即使心碎我也无所谓 咫尺天涯四目相对 离歌一曲想与你不醉不归 年华已老光阴难追 两鬓斑白我无怨无悔 八千里路得山和水 有你作陪我无惧也无畏
I thought, your tears, will make me crumble. I thought, my wretchedness, will back you to the wall. I thought after I turned my back, I would cry no more. I thought you can understand my disheartening. Endless suffering in the mortal world, I have your company, even if my heart is broken it does not matter. So close, yet so far, our eyes have crossed paths. A song of farewell, lets drink till inebriated. Getting old, clock won’t turn back, sideburns are greying, yet I regret nothing. Eight thousand miles, across mountains and streams, I have no fear with you by my side.
Onto the colorful characters: this cute thing is filled with unapologetic caricatures.
We have an eloquent aristocrat, Lu San Jin, savvy business young-genius, quite useless in the physical everyday running of guarding… anything:
A cleaver swinging widow Sheng Qiu Yue with the crass mouth of a Canton coolie, far from her hometown where she’s the gangster ladyboss paying so much homage to the Young and Dangerous franchise:
There is this best living Doctor, medicine woman Qiu Ying Luo, with the appearance of a wuxia Hello Kitty fiend, and cheeks so pinch-worthy cute, who is also the vainest egoistic shoujo fangirl of all things pink or pretty, having a wandering eye for gorgeous men she lovingly called each and every one of them ‘Xiao GeGe~~~’/sweetiecutiepie:
‘Young lady, are you alright?’
There is the harmless weathered sweet uncle Gong Shu who was/is a notorious heart-breaker/philanderer underneath his unseemly package:
We have a pair of bickering young things, a tomboyish brawny pint-size beauty Lv Qing Cheng, one of the 10 best wuxiamasters in the jiangwu who can make grown men cry with a single hit and her wallflower, spoiledbrat cling-on childhood bff, Bai Jing Qi:
And of course a bickering duo of a boy and a girl leads to one forever lovely outcome, and their endless CP outfits are big telltale sign. Both of them are offsprings of beloved characters in My Own Swordsman.
The character making the first appearance ep1, min1 is Cai Ba Dou, our countrybumpkin brawn over brains cook, picking up the profession of bodyguard extraordinaire to make a fortune:
Oh my mother, this will make a fortune!
What is Longmen Express? Express/ 镖局(biaoju) is an agency providing bodyguard/secured delivery service for any shape or form of precious cargoes in the land and/or water trading passageways of yore, predecessor of logistics in our modern world. The trails and waterways in old days were lurked with flagrant characters of the jiangwu, never shy to make a buck as anarchists. Biaoju operated with an honor code within the murky boundaries overlapping the law and the rascals, respecting the ‘black and white’, knowing wuxia was on every résumé of the professional bodyguard/镖师(biaoshi), usually. A successful biaoshi had to negotiate with all walks of life, usually their people skills would earn them friendship and respect from both sides of the law and thieves would turn a blind eye at their cargo after a matchy howling tete a tete of 合吾~~合吾~~~, but when it was foes blocking the transport, a good fight was perused. The story hinted on setting in Ming dynasty (with our leading man Guo Jin Fei cameoing on the side as a powerful eunuch). Ming is known for its nautical expeditions exploring new ends of the world, drama makes it cute when the characters speak chinglish, Korean, Japanese and even some hilarious French. lolz, ie this is by all means not for serious history buffs. Period dramas and PPL have never been much of a pair, not here. They are so cheekily worked into the fabric of the script, let alone they even made fantastic commercials of them in characters interspersed within the episodes, relevant to the story. RL express delivery companies are worked in cleverly, I enjoyed them too much to mind one bit. Money well-spent savvy sponsors!
I’m a proponent of dubbing in Cdrama. There are just too many dialects to negotiate with, and as this has been a fine-oiled machine, voice actors are generally competent. If we are using the actor’s real voice, do we go with authentic dialect making it laboriously incomprehensible for most viewers from the other 22 provinces (plus there is the complication of the PRC political tool of provincial borders not coinciding with dialectal ones. eg NW part of Canton speaks dialects closer to Fukien, same as Cantonese is prominent in western GuangXi bordering Canton)? Or Mandarin with a regional accent? Or better yet dialect OR Mandarin down to the exact hometown twang?! To my ears, each of the above are as different as Welsh and Queen’s English. And if they go through all the extra live audio taping, I need to see its worth, it has to work vivaciously, not taking me out of the element (as Ariel Lin is disappointing me in LanLingWang). Imagine my skeptical frowning when I heard Anita Yuan cantomando was not dubbed. But how I’m wrong, the dialects and every accent written into the character and serves so much purpose in their characterizations and plot. This is some fine work put in making everything sensible, believable that moved me to a fan.
We start the story meeting the decrepit little operation on its last leg, Longmen Biaoju had its glory days. The head of the biaoju is slained on the job, leaving his widow Qiu Yue, son HuHu behind with a handful of oddballs and on the brink of bankruptcy from the failed last mission. In came the rich heir of the biggest 票号(olden day bank) in the region, Lu San Jin (Guo Jin Fei), paying off its debt and acquiring the agency, with the lofty dream he could hatch this into massive profits. Now he’s the new head of the operation, parachuting himself into a close-knit family and shenanigans ensue with the clashing of personalities, unbreakable bonds are gradually, grudgingly formed, reducing my heart to a gooey puddle.
San Jin the boss and Jing Qi the most ‘underperforming’ in the agency.
They didn’t really kiss in the drama, but there was man on man smooching and they are such a popular CP of the drama when one of the guy is later paired with his OTP (hint it’s a lady), there was so much outrage the writer has to say out loud he’s sticking firmly to his stance so stick around or get lost.
Ying Luo, Qing Cheng and Qiu Yue.
I love them, and in that order. Ying Luo is my favorite lady in the drama. Qian Fang is spot-on brilliant, flailing shallowest fangirl represents! Her day job is an award-winning theater actress, actually collaborating with Guo Jing Fei (San Jin) in most of their acclaimed works, as lovers, as mother and son, as uncle and niece…any plausible relationship between a male and female. It totally shows in their seamless chemistry and comaraderie. It is one thing to have uncontrollable explosive chemistry, another whole stratosphere of awesome when they can minutely fine tune that chemistry to not a drop more, morphs with every swiftly changing scene in a slapstick OTT sitcom.
HuHu, or respectably referred to as Hu Ge (Bigbro Hu) to the gang.
He has possibly the sharpest of minds, saying the darnest truest words. (Yes, his Doraemon makes an appearance in drama)
Wordcount 2000 later, I’m confessing I initially checked this out for the gorgeous manrem of cameos! At first it’s my Loverboy and my Fling ChenXiao, little did I know the rest are…ALL FINE FINE FINE!
Ma Tin Yu. So Cute.
Chen Xiao as Mr. Meow: My Mom and Dad died before I was born. XD
I’ve never loved HXM this much. Never. Toodaloo, he said.
Aside from his gorgeous face, he’s been such a solid, steady performer.
A bit of spoiler: He’s an old lover of Qiu Yue, I love his chemistry with her the most out of her…many suitors.
Yan Kuan ❤
Daddy Bai, Sha Yi: Their family has a tradition for domestic violence! (lol)
Daddy Lv is very cute too!
I don’t know his name but obviously he’s pretty. ‘I, Mtn Chicken, will be loyal to the one and only ladyboss in my lifetime!’
his bandage read ❤ Mountain Chicken Story
Yuan Loverboy Hong. He’s playing a lawyer, he’s alright and it must be stressful memorizing a phonebook worth of lines for half ep a cameo, but he could be better.
Ying Nuo, the instant fangirl: What an attractive voice, XiaoGeGe!
Lawyer Song: So long, farewell. I want to pass a civil servant exam, read more books, and marry a chubby cute wife.
Our chubbyface cutie YingLuo: Take me!
Mr writer/producer and Mr director both did a cameo haha but they are not pretty. Mr. Director’s cameo and singing is DABOMB!
The cameo-ladies are awesome too!
Yao Chen as older sister of Qing Ning.
She is the most anticipated cameo, as her breakout role was the heroine (ie the sisters’ mommy) in My Own Swordsman
Huo Si Yan, her face is born to be in a period.
The Peanut Oil ladyboss. She is such a delight and a gorgeous natural period face again.
San Jin’s sister San Sui. It is such a riot watching the Lu siblings butting heads! She is also the singer of my favorite song from the OST 我以为
This young lady is facetwin of Liu YiFei
Still poking fun at LYF, and FSF:
MV of one of the crowd-favorite CP in the drama. This is my favorite episode: 龙门镖局【邱璎珞x黄一平】to Eason’s 好久不见-by绫罗戒
And when fangirls are mashing two fluffy dramas which stole my heart (Itakiss LiT and this), I can’t help but love it: 一吻定情×龙门镖局