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  Publicity Stills of "Mad Detective"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Director: Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai
Cast: Lau Ching Wan, Andy On, Lam Ka Tung, Kelly Lin
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Shaw & Scorpio East
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence)

Opening Day: 29 November 2007


A missing police pistol is connected to a recent series of heists and murders. Its owner WONG (Lee Kwok Lun) vanished earlier while pursuing a suspect in the mountains. His partner CHI-WAI (Lam Ka Tung) miraculously returned unharmed.

Hotshot Regional Crime Unit inspector HO (Andy On) is in charge if the serial murder investigation. He knows the only chance he has in cracking the case is to ask for help from his mentor/former boss BUN (Lay Ching Wan).

Bun is recognized as a gifted criminal profiler until he went mad several years ago. At his superior’s farewell party, Bun sliced off his right ear and offered it as a present. Bun lives in seclusion with his beloved wife MAY (Kelly Lin) ever since.

Bun has the gift to see into a person’s inner personality. This is where the subconscious desires, emotion and mental state are laid bare. For Bun, they are the key to unlocking a killer’s identity. But for Ho, Bun’s unorthodox approach has put doubt in his mind.

Bun comes to conclusion Chi-wai has a total of seven personalities. The cop’s alternate identities are responsible for his murderous behavior. However, Ho feels betrayed when Bun’s investigation went beyond his imagination. Chi-wai’s lies have managed to penetrate and corrupt his vulnerable self.

What begins as a quest for answer has now taken a schizophrenic turn where truth and lies, reality and delusions intertwine.

Short Movie Review:

Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai had once against push the limits of film making with a thought provoking movie. Mad Detective gave a memorable insight to how human’s psychological might have work and with the fine ensemble here had painted a cold, bleak and unflinching darkness of man’s inner most thoughts, making this an unforgettable movie to watch. The draw back here could be that it might not be that accessible by the general movie viewers as Mad Detective requires it’s viewers to have the patience to pay close attention to the numerous characters and strange concepts which could be trying at times.

Long Movie Review:

Since their last outing as co-directors for the thought provoking Running for Karma (2003), Directors Wai Ka Fai and Johnnie To had return to work together for another round of philosophical musing in their latest movie, Mad Detective. This time, they bravely utilize two medical conditions, Schizophrenia and Multiple split personalities and weaved them into an exciting and unusual “whodunit” movie.

On one side of the law, there’s the loony ex police detective Bun (played by Lau Ching Wan, the recent Best Actor Winner for My Name is Fame) who’s strange behavior due to his “special” talent had left most friends and strangers keeping an arm length from him. In Bun’s case, the irony here being that a thin line separates his intelligence from madness and what other people sees as a mental condition was actually a rare unorthodox talent in solving tough crimes. But ultimately, after his “Vincent van Gogh gift” act, he was released from the police service.

Fast forward to five years later, when he was pulled back into a criminal investigation when his ex subordinate Ho (Andy On) wasn’t able to solve a puzzling case involving one missing cop, one missing gun and one highly suspicious police officer Chi Wa (Gordon Lam Ka Tung).

These events and character set up provided the directors and actors an opportunity to layer a story with complexity and delightful contradictions.

For Bun, this movie offers an intriguing insight to the perspective of a person suffering from schizophrenia by providing a cinematic explanation on what could be possibly going on a person mind while that person is hallucinating. It’s also brought forth a tinge of sadness, invoke by seeing such desperate escapism from a delusion man who could have been on top of his game. There are very few actors in Hong Kong that could engage with a credible performance which requires a delicate balance of seriousness and zaniness like the Lau Ching Wan could. I wouldn’t be surprise if his performance here earns him another nomination at the Best Actor in Asian film awards.

Every hero needs a strong villain to enhance the hero’s heroic deeds and Lau Ching Wan’s performance was well supported by Gordon Lam’s portrayal of the archenemy character Chi Wa. Gordon Lam character offers another juicy insight to how people with split personalities might function differently from us, such as the thinking process and how different voices could reason with each other before coming to a decision. It even went on to contrast how one could lose one true self to the different chain of thoughts and of course it was a blast watching Gordon Lam playing such an wicked and manipulative role (in the midst of some self doubting and confusing moments).

While Bun and Chi Wa each represents the both side of the righteous and the corrupted, Ho’s character would represent the majority of the normal people. A personality trait that largely represent the righteous which could just as easily affected by the manipulation of others and in a way, it reveals the darkness of one man’s soul even among the most noble intention.

While it has a fascinating in-depth look into multi-layered personalities, the quirky manner that the investigation was done would probably left some audience cold. The manner that the story unrevealed itself could prove rather frustrating as a lot of actions went unexplained and simply weird. For example, one would expect Bun’s investigation method was solely focusing on the criminal’s perspective but that not the case as we get to witness Bun’s tumbling down in a suitcase to get into the viewpoint of the victims. It’s hard to comprehend such unconventional method which doesn’t sound logical at all.

However, it could very well be the directors’ intention to delve into the true essence of the mannerism of a madman’s action where things they do are really hard to fathom. While staying true to the essence of madness, it could really be a test of one’s patience to wait for the chain of events to be eventually played out. Beside the illogical detours, the jumpy manner that the story was told didn’t help much either as it would also requires their undivided concentration.

Those are the few drawbacks that might derail viewers from enjoying this movie. If you are able to wait for the events to flow and their concept of insanity, it will be an intriguing ride to see how the mysterious characters with schizophrenia and multiple split personalities unveil themselves through fine acting and story telling.

Movie Rating:

(Maddeningly engaging!)

Review by Richard Lim Jr



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