Mad Detective Blu-ray/DVD

“Mad Detective” is a decidedly unconventional thriller about a ‘mad’ cop, a dead cop, a bent cop and a regular cop. Lau Ching Wan stars as Bun, an ex-detective who was expelled from the force five years ago after slicing off one of his ears during his boss’s leaving party. Known for his strange but eerily successful crime-fighting methods, Bun is tracked down by Inspector Ho (Andy On) as a last resort when all else has failed in a case of a missing colleague, feared dead.

With Bun on board, it quickly becomes apparent to Ho that the disgraced officer has a bizarre gift: he can see and hear people’s inner personalities as distinct characters living around the central person, but invisible to everyone else. For example, when interviewing a witness or interrogating a suspect, Bun might see both a dominant female character giving the nervous person calming and confident responses they have to relay to the police, and an aggressive alter-ego that wants to take the law on by letting his fists do the talking. In one case seven personalities all vie for a piece of the action!

Mad Detective out on Blu-ray and DVDThe duo re-open the dead-end, 18 month old case with Ho hoping that Bun’s unorthodox approach and uncanny ability will uncover new evidence and ultimately solve the riddle. The missing policeman called Wong (Kwok-Lun Lee) and his partner Chi-Wai (Ka Tung Lam) were on a night-time stakeout for a thief who hot-footed it into a dense forest. The thief escaped, Wong never resurfaced and Chi-Wai claims not know what happened to either. Fresh interest in the case is aroused when a series of robberies take place in Hong Kong that include shootings traced back to Wong’s pistol. Is Wong still alive, is someone else wielding his gun and what if anything is Chi-Wai’s real involvement in the original case or the robberies?

It takes a little while to get your head around the central concept of Bun’s supernatural ability, both in terms how what he can do with it and how director Johnnie To depicts it on screen. Initial befuddlement quickly resolves into keen interest and often amusement as the viewer gets the film’s vibe. Think of it as a blend of “The Sixth Sense” and “Lethal Weapon”, not least because you sometimes wonder where exactly Bun sits on the gifted/insane scale, just like Mel Gibson’s jittery character, only less physical.

This is a murder mystery with some extreme violence and one or two lewd or disturbing acts, but it is frequently also very light-hearted if not laugh-out-loud funny. Witnessing the split personalities at play is wonderful, especially when they can contrast so strikingly with the visage that everyday folk encounter.

Lau Ching Wan stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast; his portrayal of a troubled, driven and gifted/cursed detective is quite superb, and he imbues Bun with a challenging mixture of schizophrenic unpredictability and loveable bravado. The rest of the cast are still very good, though in all honestly their characters never stood a chance next to Bun. Andy On’s Ho tries manfully to keep up with Bun’s erratic methodology, doing his best to rein him in on the many occasions when he threatens to spin out of control. Meanwhile, Kwok-Lun Lee and his multiple-personality entourage present a formidable obstacle to progress in the case, keeping very cool under fire but with a sinister edge that suggests he has something to hide.

I would not hesitate to recommend this beguiling thriller. It has a truly unusual USP, the plot moves apace, the atmosphere is tense and the audience is kept guessing as to which way it will turn next. The only negative is that once or twice it might throw the viewer off the scent a little too successfully, such that they struggle for a moment to gain an understanding of what just happened, but in general the split personality concept is very cleverly employed. The final scene, mirroring the finale of “Enter The Dragon” but multiplied by ten is especially gripping.

The Blu-ray version easily overcomes the DVD edition in terms of picture clarity, depth and stability. Whilst the image is not always pin-sharp, it handles Johnnie To’s grey and smoky cinematography with ease.

Special features included in this dual-format release include:

  • 2.35:1 original aspect ratio
  • Carefully created new English subtitles
  • Q&A with Johnnie To at the Cinémathèque Française Johnnie To retrospective (Paris, France, March 2008) – 35 minutes
  • Exclusive cast interviews shot during the Far East Film Festival featuring Lau Ching Wan, and Lam Suet (Udine, Italy, April 2008) – 14 minutes
  • Interview with Johnnie To for the French theatrical release of “Mad Detective” (France, 4 March 2008) – 21 minutes
  • Original UK theatrical trailer
  • 16-page booklet containing specially commissioned essay by David Bordwell (Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Fans of Johnnie To will be interested in the Q&A session as he covers more ground than just “Mad Detective”, including producing films on a tight schedule and challenging budget, a need for originality in modern cinema, and whether or not he is a chauvinist! Bordwell’s booklet essay is particularly useful to those of us (myself included) who might have found themselves getting a bit lost here and there during the movie!

“Mad Detective" (2007) is out now on dual-format Blu-ray and DVD (both discs in one box), courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 86 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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