(PERHAPS) nothing in the recent years of Hong Kong cinema comes quirkier and more inventive than Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's much-anticipated team effort's return of MAD DETECTIVE, most certainly the best film of the year. I mean, who could have thought that a crime thriller involves multiple split personality can be so much fun? This film did just that, with Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai offers everything up to their sleeve we have come to see their past work before, mixes them altogether and turns them inside out to breathe a new life out of the ordinary.
At the beginning of the film, we meet Bun (Lau Ching-Wan), an eccentric police inspector unlike any others. His bizarre methods of solving every case is pretty much unconventional -- by putting himself into the shoes of the criminal. This is when the head of the Regional Crime Unit, Ho (Andy On Chi-Kit) witnesses Bun is solving two cases at once: stabbing a dead pig to simulate a bloody murder and zipping himself into a suitcase, and required Ho to shove him down the stairs to understand the inner workings of a recent murder. Bun is some sort of a cult legend in the police force but his career ends abruptly when everyone in the force witnesses him cutting off his own ear to hand over to his retiring superior officer (Eddy Ko) as a gift of sorts. A few years later, after Bun has been long kicked out of the force because of his disturbing behavior and now Ho is seeking for his help again to solve the disappearance of a police officer named Wong Kwok-Chu (Lee Kwok-Lun), who has been missing for eighteen months. As Ho explains, Wong's partner, Ko Chi-Wai (Lam Ka-Tung) survives from a fateful night while they are on the pursuit of an Indian thief. To make things worst, Wong's gun has been stolen and now used in a series of armed robberies. With no other leads at all, Ko Chi-Wai is naturally the only prime suspect behind the complicated case. Bun agrees to help Ho out and they started to tail off Ko Chi-Wai. That is where Bun is surprised to see Ko Chi-Wai has seven multiple personalities, each played by different actors including Lau Kam-Ling who controls his emotion and justify his overall action; Lam Suet as his reflection of timid self and Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai as his reckless behavior towards action. As the case progresses, Ho begins to doubt Bun's increasingly eccentric behavior and even feels uncomfortable by his personal lifestyle, like how Bun communicates with his harried wife, May (Kelly Lin) who is actually an imaginary person vividly created by Bun himself.
The most inventive aspect is how Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai plays out the multiple split personalities disorder by laying out a terrific trick of using multiple actors to portray different perspectives of a single person's personality. Not only the idea is very clever, but they managed to broaden the aspect to turn their trick both fabulously offbeat and mesmerizingly complex, yet so effective without resulting into over-the-top silliness.
To top it all off, Lau Ching-Wan anchors the performance so hypnotizing you glued to his eccentric act from the minute one. Not only he pulls off one of his finest performances to date since his surprisingly Best Actor win for his comedic role in the last year's little-seen MY NAME IS FAME he is also so gamely playful yet frantic enough that balanced between oddly comic and remotely disturbing.
While plot sounds as crazy as the premise itself might have viewers written this off as an excuse of experimental attempt, it is a tremendous surprise that every bizarre moment have its internal logic behind all the complexities. Screenwriters Wai Ka-Fai and Au Kin-Yee ensures that every plot line is all accounted for and for those who bears with the film enough will rewarded with a satisfying payoff.
The film's ending is also a certified classic, where Bun, Ho, Ko Chi-Wai and the Indian thief finally facing off against each other in a flat full of mirror, reflecting each of their own inner personalities. The scene is also complete with a violent and stylish Mexican standoff that is certainly a fan's wet dream.
Though this film is clearly not for everyone, it's worth checking out.