‘Apply emotions to investigate!’ is the motto of the mad detective at the centre of Johnny To and Wai Ka-fai’s follow-up to 2003’s My Left Eye Sees Ghosts. The an unfortunately-named Inspector Bun (Ching Wan-lau) is a police investigator with uncompromising strategy for solving cases. In the opening sequence, he gets a fellow cop to zip him up inside a suitcase and kick it down several flights of stairs. Such experiences allow Bun to plug into the emotions of others, but at a high cost; his madness causes him to slice off his own ear during a police ceremonial, resulting in a swift ban from the force. Bun is left to cool off until a vanishing policeman and a missing gun prompt young whiz-kid cop Inspector On (Andy On) to recruit the wayward Bun as a partner.
While structured like a bog-standard Hong Kong police procedural, Mad Detective has a deserved reputation for innovation due to To and Wai’s imaginative methods in depicting Bun’s state of mind; the personalities he’s channelling are shown in the frame with him, as if he was a tour guide leading them through the film.
After a slow start, the pay off comes in a dramatic hall-of mirrors shoot-out lifted from Welles’ 1947 noir The Lady from Shanghai – a mildly intriguing prospect for the casual viewer. Mad Detective is a must-see for admirers of Hong Kong action cinema, and with such a novel content, it simply begs for a Hollywood remake.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 29–Sun 31 Aug.