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Mad Detective (2007)
Mad Detective
Actors: Lau Ching-Wan, Eddy Ko, Lam Suet, Kelly Lin, Lam Ka-tung
Director: Johnny To;Wai Ka-fai
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 31min

NTSC/Region 0. 2007's largest grossing film at the Hong Kong box office - the smash-hit Mad Detective - is one of the freshest and most satisfying films from that country in a decade. The traditional Hong Kong police film ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Lau Ching-Wan, Eddy Ko, Lam Suet, Kelly Lin, Lam Ka-tung
Director: Johnny To;Wai Ka-fai
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
Format: DVD - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 02/12/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 31min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
Edition: Import
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Cantonese
Subtitles: Chinese, English

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Movie Reviews

JOHNNIE TO's latest is "Maddeningly" Entertaining and Off-Be
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 02/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"MAD DETECTIVE is from Johnnie To's production outfit; Milky Way Image, the production company responsible for such acclaimed Hong Kong hits such as "Exiled". Milky Way has given new life to Hong Kong Cinema and perhaps maintaining the country's image as a reputable leader in the crime genre. This latest offering from the creative team of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai still has the usual coolness, it mixes crime thrills and detective work, familiar motifs and themes, but somehow it feels more cryptic and enigmatic than the usual. The film definitely feels a lot more like a psychological detective thriller than anything else.

Synopsis partially derived from the Mei-Ah dvd back cover:
A missing police pistol is connected to a series of recent heists and murders. Its owner Wong (Lee Kwok Lun) vanished after pursuing suspects in the bushes. His partner Chi-Wai (Lam Ka Tung) miraculously returned unscathed.
Inspector HO (Andy On) the officer in charge, seeks assistance from his former mentor; Bun (Lau Ching Wan), who had once been recognized as a gifted criminal profiler until he became judged insane some years ago. He has the uncanny ability to see into a person's inner personality, where the subconscious desires and emotions are laid bare. After the first contact with Chi-Wai, Bun concludes that Chi-Wai is the murderer. What began as a quest for answers has now taken a schizophrenic turn where truth and lies, reality and delusions intertwine....

If you saw the film "Running on Karma", you have a good idea on how this exercise in Buddhist indulgence plays out. The film takes the very cryptic and odd premise of "seeing a person's inner personality" to a very creative style. The film's premise is very ambitious and effective. An eccentric detective, who can see the emotions and inner desires of a person; to his associates, Bun appears quite insane. Bun uses this uncanny ability to explore complex emotions in solving a crime. True, "Mad Detective" is about cops and the investigation of crimes, but the complexity of its plot is just who these people are and what they are about to do. It was very different and creative the way the director expressed the inner personalities within one person. Viewers have to pay special attention to its proceedings as the camera's perspective shifts from time to time, a person will "morph" into someone else as a representation of that character's hidden personality. This style will have to be embraced by the audience, as the very unusual visual manipulation may sometimes show 7 people walking along the sidewalk in place of one person, 7 folks crammed in one compact car instead of one, a woman standing to urinate, etc. The switching characters and perspectives will encourage the viewer to stay sharp, it made me think and analyze the sequences. Truth be told, the film made me work, and while I was definitely drawn to the film, some viewers may become a bit alienated and confused.

Thankfully, award-winning actor Lau Ching Wan plays the lead. No one can play a weird eccentric with dynamic charisma better than Lau. His weathered and exhausted appearance, very manic and strange behavior adds a lot of depth to his character; Bun. Lam Suet and Eddie Cheung makes appearances as Chi-Wai's different personalities, Kelly Lin plays Bun's wife. "Mad Detective" is so full of compelling and multi-dimensional characters, that at times, I felt a bit of character overload. These characters aren't very different from everyday folks, with inner voices nudging the person to either do right or wrong; with unexpected consequences that may also be damning and dangerous to others.

"Mad Detective" may be a bit different from the other films I'm used to by Johnnie To but one thing that still held his signature is its great storytelling. As usual, there is somewhat of a "shock ending" that is bereft in ultimate irony. The film can definitely form a connection with its viewers, its real-world and real-life execution is likely to strike a chord to many. The ending may cause some people to scratch their heads, but if you've been paying attention during its entirety, it does make perfect sense. The twist and turns may prove a bit maddening but pseudo-intellectuals will no doubt have a field day trying to interpret its meaning.

Johnnie To's "Mad Detective" will no doubt become a favorite among his fans, who are used to the deadpan humor, crazy irony, plot arches, and a bit of misogyny. The film is definitely to a selected, intended audience as it may prove a tougher sell to people who like to be spoon-fed the details and uninitiated to this style. Still, the content and its meaning did prove very intoxicating and compelling to me. I may not be able to fully explain why I enjoyed this film and some details may seem a bit confusing, but my inner personality (who is The Mighty Thor LOL) who is flailing his arms says I like this film a lot!


Brilliantly bleak and deranged
Jacques COULARDEAU | OLLIERGUES France | 12/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When one detective is crazy and the other one is a greedy gangster in the disguise of a detective and the third one is a bitch that does not want to be dominated by her crazy man and the fourth one is a frightened little boy in the disguise of a courageous crime solver, you can be sure nothing is simple and everything is definitely twisted, distorted, warped and a few other limping true menaces. And only one will have to survive to clean up the snake nest, and only one will survive. Then the rest is anecdotic. But I like this detective clairvoyant when you bury him alive. I must admit it is funny to follow the intricate and completely messed up chase after an Indian criminal who will be the first one to be killed though he probably never killed anyone. You need eggs to break if you want to make an omelet, don't you? The eggs are of course always innocent even if they come from the rear end of some chicken or rather hen. A film that is more funny than frightening but maybe that is due to the fact that we do not have a dubbed version, only a subtitled one.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
Defies convention; bucks expectations
Steve Benner | Lancaster, UK | 10/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Despite its rather gruesome opening, this highly unconventional Hong Kong police movie manages to be both engrossing and compelling right to the very end. There are times when the pace flags just a little but by and large it achieves a fine balance between police drama and psychological thriller. It is well acted and stylishly shot throughout and has so many unexpected elements as to buck all expectations of just where it is heading, or how it might get there. With twists aplenty along the way, it pays to keep your wits about you whilst watching; its apocalyptic conclusion provides a nicely ambiguous ending.

With a generous dose of interesting extras on the DVD, this is very worthwhile release from Masters of Cinema. Highly recommended."
Wholly Original, Wickedly Smart, and Very Entertaining take
Garvinstomp | Chicago or LA | 08/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie is brilliant, possibly even genius. Let's just get that out of the way. I've seen many people refer to it as a Johnnie To film, which is only half-right. Here, the great To re-teams with his 'Running on Karma' co-director Wai Ka Fai. It also pairs To up with legendary actor Lau Ching Wa (who, personally, I loved in Black Mask). With a team like this there are some big expectations-and they more than deliver.
Without saying too much, let's just say that Lau (playing Det. Bun) is a 'Mad Detective' who has an uncanny ability to read people and deduce crimes (think Sherlock Holmes meets Rainman). He's been called back by the police to help solve the case of a missing police detective. While the concept behind the character is fairly unique, it's been done before in different ways-but rarely as good as this.

What makes this film great is that it starts where most other films end. It gives you the big Shyamalan twist up front and then spends the next hour and a half trying to figure out what to do with it. This movie may set a new bar for richness of character.

Bun and the relationship he has with his wife provides some genuinely heart-wrenching moments. Lau really gets inside the character and you feel it, from beginning to end, emotional/psychological roller coaster and all. But we'd expect nothing less of To and Fai; they usually tend to populate their world with rich characters. Every actor turns in a stellar performance. Plus, we're treated to appearances by a fair number of To and Fai regulars.

'Mad Detective' really is a fresh take on the Crime/Murder/Mystery genre. But while fresh is good, it's not everything. This film succeeds in being smart and entertaining at the same time. Seeing such a great concept put together by such a talented team on both sides of the camera is a gift. Repeat viewings will reveal more and more subtle and intricate layers to an already brilliant film. There's really not much more to say, just watch it, already!"