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Mad Detective had been touted as the long awaited re-team of Johnny To
and Wai Ka Fai, who together have made Running on Karma back in 2003.
The return of Lau Ching Wan to a To-Wai movie (since My Left Eye Sees
Ghosts) is also more than welcome, and Mad Detective to me lived up to
its hype, despite having certain obvious recycled elements from To's
But this doesn't mean that the movie felt familiar. Sure, the iconic elements of a To movie were all there, including the saga of the missing police handgun, and the oh-so-stylish Mexican stand-offs (that we've seen in recent To movies in Exiled and Triangle) and the inevitable resolution, though how this one panned out, deserves the loudest of applause for its edge-of-your-seat-who-comes-out-unscathed revelation. And the end result is both satisfying, for a movie that had engaged through all its minutes, and yet frustrating, though the good thing was that there isn't any cop-out edits just to satisfy censors or sooth faux morals.
Mad Detective tells the story of Bun (Lau), who is termed as the title says because of his extremely unorthodox methods to solve crime - he re-enacts them at the very venues they are committed, getting into the minds of the criminals, and through this manner, able to identify who the perpetrator is. Needless to say his crime solving rate is high and he beocomes a legend, until a crazed moment saw him cut off his right ear to present to a departing boss, and with that, an early discharge letter from the Force.
The story fast forwards 5 years later, with detective Ho (Andy On) investigating a case of a missing cop and his gun, which was found to be used in a series of armed robberies. While suspicion is strong on the partner Chi-wai (Lam Ka Tung), there is absolutely no shred of evidence linking him to the crime. In his desperation, Ho turns to Bun, very much against protocol, and enlists his help in solving the case.
That's basically it, as we see in more detail what Bun's abilities are in depth. He's part profiler, part sage, and to many, all insanity with his constant talking to himself, and banged up attire sans socks. What I thought made it a close to perfect thriller, was that it constantly kept you guessing whether Bun is indeed what the title is, if it had taken a leaf out of Oxide Pang's creation of the C+ Detective with some supernatural moments, of if it was solely a disorder of the mind. If it shows you compelling evidence that you deem is a smoking gun, in no time are you presented with doubts that will cloud your judgement. You're given a glimpse of how the method in the madness works, and more often than not, find yourself second-guessing all the time, just like how Ho does.
And to that effect, I would warrant a guess that some in the audience will be left perplexed and confused, but my advice is not to give up on it. There are many wonderful moments especially when Bun's ability is fleshed out for the audience to see, and as such provided plenty of cameo appearances like Lam Suet and Cheung Siu Fai, playing personalities that were personifications of an inner man's thoughts, desires and fears. A pity though that not all personalities shown were provided screen time to do something more. A cautionary tale too about not judging a book by its cover, as even uncanny abilities to read a person might not be able to sniff out something that's regressive and well concealed, the true intentions of anyone.
Lau Ching Wan took a long hiatus before returning to the big screens here (since The Shopaholics, and the lovely My Name is Fame only made it straight to disc), and this comeback is nothing short of majestic in having him in his element, doing almost a one- man show if you will. You laugh at his antics, cry at his predicament in being so dogged in his persistence, admire his unorthodox methods and philosophy approaching investigations (to use emotions), yet cry along in pity when you suspect he's slowly degenerating into madness. Lau has charisma enough to make you empathize with his Bun, into a character you root for, despite his obvious difference. Andy On holds his own as the greenhorn investigator well enough in scenes opposite Lau, while Lam Ka Tung is just plain menacing as the accused, expressing his frustration in being the prime suspect, being both the cat and the mouse in the hunt for the truth.
What I admire about the movie, is how a simple idea can be branched into something complex, but yet within grasp, so hats off to the writing-directing team of To and Wai Ka Fai. In essence, this is a story that is told with its cards close to its chest, providing great balance in letting the multiple cats out of the bag at the right time. Simply superb!
is the best HK movie I've watched ever since 'running out of time'. The idea of having the talent of seeing the split personality in person is refreshed and extraordinary. The 'ghost' mentioned in the movie were referring to the thoughts established after people were bullied, manipulated, pushed, forced to lose important things in their lives. Even the detective himself has ghost inside when he was forced out of his wife's life. When he explained why he cut off his ear, i was so shocked that I would consider myself doing some outrageous things just for the hell of it when I had the honour facing a man with no ghost inside. The gun shooting scene at the end is a classic. The camera shooting and editing must be a tremendous job to finish in order to represent the ghosts mirroring the gun holders. Wonderful movie
This movie is quirky, weird and everything else that can not be
considered mainstream. But it's also fun, light, heavy, violent,
romantic and many other things ... amongst others too: Original! Or
maybe unique and refreshing are more accurate words.
If you are not familiar with the work of Johnnie To, maybe this isn't the first of his movies to watch. There is "Running out of Time", there is "Fulltime Killer", PTU and many others! If you like them, then you can try this movie too. But again, it's off-beat, it has a main character who is very ... strange to say the least and it has a very crazy idea (or many crazy ideas) behind it all ... I won't go into details, but this movie and how it was made (shot, edited etc.) is simply great! If you allow yourself to enjoy it's sheer craziness
It's been a while since To and Wai's last collaboration, but apparently
the time apart did them a whole lot of good. Mad Detective (or Sun
Taam, if you wish) is another shining star on To's ever-growing list of
first class titles. Stylishly executed, cleverly scripted and dare I
say quite original. HK genre cinema doesn't get any better than this.
To's been on a winning streak these last couple of years and with Mad Detective he's really at the top of his game. The film is filled with typical To elements, but also benefits a lot from Wai's creative writing. Mad Detective is one of these rare films that makes you feel like you're watching something novel and original.
Ching Wan Lau, a To regular, is taking on one of the best roles of his career. Lau plays Bun, a detective who's equally brilliant as he is insane. While his methods of investigation are irregular, his behavior is condoned as he's able to solve case upon case. The key to Bun's success is his ability to see behind people's masks. He sees every aspects of a single person as a separate individual. All goes well until Bun's retirement, when his genius is quickly degraded to simple madness.
In Mad Detective, we see Bun chasing after a guy with no less than 7 personalities (though only three of them are dominant). The film is often changing perspectives which keeps the viewer well on its toes. One character is actually played by 8 different actors and To doesn't give too many warnings. But looking back, the film isn't that hard to follow or figure out and the concept never sits in the way of the basic storyline.
Visually To only seems to improve. There are plenty of awesomely framed shots, neatly lit and even though the film has an overall dark overtone, colors really jump of the screen. And while To keeps on making films at a staggering rate, it's impressive to see how visually accomplished each and every one of his later films are.
Another definite plus is the soundtrack. Though often light in tone it doesn't hurt the atmosphere one bit, but only underlines the sad but dark overtones of Bun's madness. Strange sounds are brought together to form music, sometimes quirky melodies are used, but the music never feels out of place. More so, it does an excellent job at defining To's style and helps to shape his films. Not as in your face as the soundtrack of Sparrow, but once you start listing you'll notice how weird it really is.
It would've been quite easy to push the film into one direction, but To manages to keep a healthy balance. One moment Bun's actions can be rather amusing, a couple of minutes later there's a definite sadness to his character. And even though it's actually a dark and personal tale of a sick individual, the film is also able to keep its soft and creative edge, never choosing sides between being a character portrait or purely story-driven film making.
Mad Detective is a film where everything works out. Excellent cast, creative and original perspective, a solid storyline, stylishly visualized and magnificently scored. The film has no weak points, unless you prefer film making to stay in more familiar territory. if so, I suggest you wait for one of the big Hollywood directors to turn it into a lifeless, soulless and old-fashioned crime/drama. If that doesn't sound too appealing, be sure to check out To's Mad Detective. If anything, it's one of the best recent examples there's still plenty of life and creativity left in sculpting stories.
Together with Sparrow, To proves himself to be one of the most interesting directors in cinema today. His genre films are strong, original and seamlessly executed and seem to lack any weak points. Mad Detective is a definite recommend. 4.5*/5.0*
Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai's Mad Detective is a film that turns the Hong
Kong crime genre upon it's head. Based around the simple concept of a
man that can see everyone's hidden persona's, Mad Detective is anything
but formulaic and right from the very start dissuades any notion that
this is just another flashy HK crime flick. Lau Ching-Wan stars as the
eponymous Mad Detective, Inspector Chan Kwai-Bun, a brilliant detective
forced into retirement when his methods and actions become a little too
bizarre. Alongside him Andy On plays young Inspector Ho who tries to
enlist the aid of retired Inspector Bun to solve a complex murder case
involving a missing police officer and a suspect with multiple
What follows is a highly ingenious, highly inventive and above all, highly entertaining piece of cinema. Paced perfectly, this viewer sat on the edge of his seat, intrigued and enthralled in equal measure and delighting and the simple, unrestrained freshness of this film and it's premise. Lau Ching-Wan plays his part exceptionally well as the oddball Inspector Bun, throwing all semblance of logic out of the window as he investigates the case, but it's a straight faced performance; there's no comedy here as the plot and it's characters take themselves very seriously. However, despite this it's hard not to find humour in some of the scenes involving multiple personalities, and whether this was the directors intent or not, it does provide a handful of light hearted moments that help to break up this complex and down-right weird film into more palatable pieces.
Overall, if you're looking for a crime film that's as inventive and intriguing as it is enjoyable, you can't go wrong with Mad Detective. See it now before Hollywood does an inevitable remake.
Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai have reinvented the detective genre and
things will probably never be the same.
Inspector Ho is stumped by the disappearance of a detective 18 months earlier.Desperate for a break he looks to Bun, a genius profiler with whom he briefly worked years before...when Bun went crazy and was thrown off the force. A funny, tense un-nerving cop drama where nothing is certain. Is Bun a genius or crazy? Has Ho lost his mind? Where will it all end? Its a trip. I'd tell you more but I'm still trying to process what I saw since things shift from our reality to Bun's, often so its not clear. Its a trip and then some. Actually I'd be very surprised if this film doesn't end up with a cult following, an American remake and lots of articles written about it. Its just a nifty little thriller.
Definitely worth a viewing or two.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Mad Detective" starts promisingly. It shows that Johnny To has hit on
a premise that allows his movie to not make sense without that perhaps
being too much of a problem. However it falls apart towards the end and
becomes just as maddeningly obtuse as all his other movies, the novel
starting point hurting the movie in the final act.
Bun is a detective with a supernatural gift - or is he just crazy? - that lets him see a person's "true personality". He is fired after he cuts off his own ear and tries to give it to his superior.
Some time later, a policeman has gone missing and his gun has been used in murders. Bun is tracked down to find the culprit.
Most of the above I had to check Wikipedia to find out. I remember the ear cutting bit, the fact that Bun has a "gift", and some of the other stuff. That's the thing with Johnnie To: details of crimes the characters are investigating and the motivations of the characters are always really sketchy, and the ending always requires you to understand stuff you don't.
I think the problem with "Mad Detective" is its style. At first you feel liberated when you realise much of what you see on screen isn't supposed to be real and probably isn't supposed to make sense. You're seeing what the Mad Detective, Bun, sees. But in the end you realise you actually needed to be able to tell the difference between the real and the fake, and the movie doesn't give you enough help in this regard. There should have been a clear stylistic difference between the figments of Bun's imagination and those things that exist outside of his mind, or his second sight.
What felt like an illuminating device only ended up adding more confusion than the usual To film.
Before this I haven't watched a single movie for a while (for about 4 months) and I decided to give an opportunity to Asian cinematography. And I certainly did not regret. This movie isn't as complex as other crime movies but it contains great amount of drama and humor. This "weird" detective is one of the best roles I have seen in a while and in my opinion he carries this whole movie to the next level. If you want to give a chance to Asian cinematography I would highly recommend you this movie.
Inspector Bun has a weird style of solving crimes and he has the ability to read inner personalities of people. Due to this behavior, he gets fired from the force. One day, Inspector Ho approaches Bun to help him in an ongoing case about a missing police officer. It's a movie that plays with your mind and force you to keep guessing throughout the movie. Ching Wan Lau plays the weird Bun character and brings all the emotions that the character demands. The concept of the movie was very simple and a thorough characterizations helps to an ending that is definitely worth the wait. Overall, it's a highly recommended for those who are looking for a serious crime thriller movie.
The Hong Kong film industry is one of the marvels of cinema. How such a small place can often put out more films than most countries over the course of a given year is not only impressive; it is also maddening. I say maddening because more often than not a great deal of these films never make it it out of the tiny cultural enclave in which they are born.
Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's 2007 Mad Detective was one of the few that landed on western shores having been a hit upon its domestic release. In a collection that so often thought of as being about the past Masters of Cinema often shines a light on more contemporary offerings with Mad Detective being one.
It is a fairly simple story, a cop loses his gun and there maybe some corruption in the force. Sounds fairly familiar doesn't it? Well, that is until you watch the film and realise Mad Detective like its title suggests is a little more left field than you might think.
In this episode Joakim and Tom try and get to grips with a film that like its lead character is slightly more hard work than your average cop thriller.
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