Directed by Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai. Hong Kong. 2007.

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Mad Detective was last year’s highest grossing film in Hong Kong was nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice and has won multiple awards.

The Hong Kong police film and its various Asian counterparts you think has been rejigged, conventions of genre twisted all over the place by names like Woo, Chan and the Infernal Affairs trilogy. However, here we are afforded a different twist on the psychological scars police work can have on the officers.  In a brilliant opening pre-credit sequence, we are introduced to Dt. Bun (Lau Ching Wan) who is a terrific criminal profiler until he slices off his ear as a present to a leaving chief. He is discharged from the force and six years later, a missing policeman’s gun is involved in some robberies and assaults. New Inspector Ho (Andy On) calls upon Bun to help with the case, as Bun has the ‘ability’ to see a person’s inner personality, and subconscious desires.

The opening scene is brilliant because we get to see that he is eccentric (placing himself in a suitcase and being thrown down flights of stairs), gifted (he cracks the case) but mad (the cutting off of the ear).

After that the case cracks on as they try to finger Chi-Wai (Lam Ka Tung) for the assaults as it was his partner who went missing. He is a prime suspect and according to Bun he has seven personalities all battling to get out, but controlling Wai.  The times we see Wai and the seven are confusing for the viewer, there are just too many people in the screen at one time.  And Bun’s continual talking to a wife who is not there only muddles the storyline, the fictional wife Bun creates for us is different to the one we see in the form of May (Kelly Lin). It also does not help she is an officer also.  The need for romance and love in these officer’s lives is somewhat not required and diverts attention from the solid crime action taking place, case in point would be the scene at Bun’s favourite restaurant where he takes Ho and his wife, and an empty seat that Bun talks to. Though it would obviously add eccentricity the scene takes too long.

This is unfortunate because the film is only 89 minutes long but it breezes along to get the story across.  The film is well shot, especially with some neat close-ups and there is eerie blue neo-noir lighting - reminiscent of Scott’s Blade Runner – that is throughout the film and gives the film this ethereal feel. The representation of the mental disease is not mocking, especially if everyone has it supposedly.  Good camerawork, editing and lighting are a match for the strong performances by the cast that could easily have fallen into parody.

Jamie Garwood
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