Mad Detective (To, Wai, 2008)


From its fragmented opening montage all the way to its deceivingly dark finale of broken mirrors and breaking psyches, Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai’s Mad Detective reveals a mistrust and deterioration of investigative instincts and the tragic ramifications of such doubt within Policiers, both in terms of genre and character. Inspector Bun (Lau Ching-Wan), the demented centerpiece of Mad Detective, is a brilliant but completely luny cop whose antics produce pinpoint results, often at the cost of plausibility. Bun claims to see a person’s inner personality(s), and To/Wai brilliantly visualize these scenarios by manipulating point of view and angle. Unlike traditional Hong Kong cop films, Mad Detective delves into an abyss of cowardice and weakness, leaving Bun outside the realm of modern rationale; alone, categorized, but completely justified. Yet the end result feels anything like a vindication. If anything, Mad Detective deconstructs a current trend in American television, the Wacky Detective genre where quirky cops solve cases in eccentric ways. To and Wai see the true genius in Bun, but they equally understand the brutal and reactionary fear in the eyes of the characters around him, adding a tragic context to an already dynamic story.

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