Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mad Detective

Johnnie To has been everyone's darling for a while now. Election and Exiled garnered a great deal of attention and were heralded as revitalizing Hong Kong cinema. Johnnie To was bringing back the heyday of good ol' HK flicks. Mad Detective has also been very widely (and highly) praised and it very much lives up to its reputation.

To's love for the great movies of the 80s and 90s is clear in the rough, unpolished feel of the film. Effects are kept to a minimum and the cops-on-the-edge with their tiny pop-cap guns woudl have been just as comfortable walking through scenes 15 or 20 years ago. The atmosphere is set with billowing smoke, dirty windows and grainy film.

The tone is similarly brutal, blunt and nihilistic as well. The movie is ostensibly about the unsolved mystery of a missing cop but the classic story of the eccentric, insane detective with a unique insight into the mind of criminals comes across as much more ominous and disturbing. The "eccentricities" quickly spiral into raw, paralyzing madness, seemingly tainting everyone around him. It quickly becomes clear that the movie is more about the instability and multitudes within everyone. The film's spots of surprising and effective humor serve to reinforce its overall tone instead of undermining or diluting it.

Mad Detective is definitely recommended to fans of Asian cinema. Johnnie To takes a pat, cliched story and manages to make it engaging and unnerving, though the rough and unpolished feel may make it difficult for newer fans to really get into.
based on a screening during the Seattle International Film Festival : Wikipedia : IMDB : YouTube