Mad Detective: ”I’d rather die than live miserably”

Year: 2007
Directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai
Produced by
Written by Wai Ka-Fai and Au Kin-Yee
Cast: Sean Lau, Andy On, Gordon Lam, Kelly Lin, Kwok-Lun Lee, Choi-ning Lee, Flora Chan,Cheung Siu-Fai, Lam Suet, Ronald Yan, Wah Wo Wong, and Jo Kuk

A rookie detective must seek the help of a detective with paranormal abilities to crack a puzzling case.

The word ”psychological thrillers” is tossed around a lot but few words more apt to describe Mad Detective. Mad Detective is one of the first collaborations between Johnnie To and Wa Ka-Fai after a few years of not working together. When these two usually work together, magic happens. Mad Detective does strike gold for the most part. Perhaps, Mad Detective isn’t technically can be classified as ”magical realism” in the typical sense, however, it clearly echoes magical realist connotations from its emphasis in blending the surreal with the natural so harmoniously. It is surrealism in a paranormal flavor.

If Mad Detective is concerned with one thing, it is jarring your senses to the point that you can’t tell what is real or fake. Bun, our clairvoyant hero isn’t just a crazy eccentric but the heart and soul of the picture itself. Bun’s unworldly mannerisms and ghastly actions is the dynamic magnetism of Mad Detective. Bun’s M.O. throws typical police procedures out the window. Bun’s wacky method makes the counterintuitive look like the intuitive. Bun by awkwardly reenacting crimes can instinctually grasp the truth. The best of this ability is being able to see the ”inner personalities” of others which opens up a window to another world where people represented by other people that embody their innermost traits. And consequently, the floodgates are open to a mind-bending surrealism that constantly forces you to take a double take.

Mad Detective though it fronts as a film noir, but that is more of a springboard for delving into some great psychological exploration. The more psychological it gets, the more we share Bun’s schizophrenic mental state. His odd view of the world becomes our own. The constant shifting between what is actually there and Bun’s mind eye is what gives us a taste of schizophrenia.

The mystery unfolds through a shifty investigation that you aren’t ever really sure if Bun is making progress or simply misleading us with his dumb antics. We aren’t really sure if Bun is a savant or actually a madman. An unpredictability that could be annoying but the tight pacing picks up the slack. The less you are aware of the details of the plot, the more the intrigue will work on you. By its end, Mad Detective’s finale avoids being a cliché and exceeds as a great mental puzzle that makes good use of the prior proceedings.

Mad Detective is a mentally unhinged adventure that masterfully binds a character’s mental state with an enthralling mystery.

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