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A rookie cop teams up with a former detective with a supernatural gift to hunt down a serial killer.
For more about Mad Detective and the Mad Detective Blu-ray release, see Mad Detective Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 31, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ching Wan Lau, Andy On, Kelly Lin, Ka Tung Lam, Lee Kwok Lun, Suet Lam
Directors: Johnnie To, Ka-Fai Wai
» See full cast & crew
Mad Detective Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 31, 2008
Leaving traditional triad themes behind in favor of unorthodox storytelling with twists likely to impress David Lynch fans, Johnny To's stylish "Mad Detective" (2007) arrives on Blu-ray via UK-based distribs Eureka Entertainment. The film was nominated for Lion d'Or at last year's Venice Film Festival.
Inspector Bun (Lau Ching-Wan) is one of the best at the local Police Department. Whenever there is a case his colleagues cannot solve, he is asked to assist. His deductive methods are unique, some would say even bizarre. But he never fails to deliver, which is why everyone respects him. The problem is - inspector Bun is mad.
After he is fired for cutting off his ear in an attempt to make a point in front of his superior, Bun is fired. He disappears leaving plenty of fans in the Police Department as well as a few angry critics. Five years later, a young cop (Andy On) tracks Bun down and invites him to come back and help him out solve a crime mystery involving two of his colleagues.
A wild romp of a film with an edge likely to warm the hearts of David Lynch fans, Mad Detective may prove to be too difficult to swallow for those grown accustomed to To's triad pictures. Misleading, stylishly-lensed and lacking the coherence To's Exiled offered, Mad Detective has trouble written all over it. Nothing is what it seems here, and the little one is allowed to logically put together is effectively shattered into tiny little pieces as soon as one figures out what is real and what isn't. Confused? Don't be, soon you will be lost!
Losing one's way in To's Mad Detective, however, isn't that bad. The director's tricky storytelling is actually quite well put together, and granted you remain patient, Mad Detective could be very rewarding. As mentioned earlier, those looking for an updated triad entry from To and his team may be disappointed, but those who actually enter Mad Detective without any specific expectations are likely to uncover a whole new dimension of To's talent, which none of his previous works have revealed.
Those who have come forward claiming that Mad Detective isn't up to To's standards are arguably too entrenched in old cliches about HK cinema. While not as visually impressive as Exiled, Mad Detective is far more subtle and subversive than anything I've seen from the action guru. The main protagonist is flawed, unlikable and rude - just the way most of us see cops. Only this one is also mad. So much, in fact, that it is actually fun to try and figure out precisely what the heck is he seeing that those around him can't.
The murder mystery is practically unimportant here, or at least not as far as this reviewer is concerned. It somewhat keeps the wild bits in Mad Detective together, but Bun's extravagant behavior is far more enjoyable. So much, in fact, that Bun reminded me a lot about Mickey Rourke's character in Barbet Schroeder's Barfly (1987) - a wacky man with an off-kilter sense of humor and a gift only a few were able to understand. Much to my delight, Bun also turned out to be quite a cynic, so in a somewhat politically incorrect way Mad Detective truly had me intrigued.
Assisted by old friend Wai Ka-Fai (Full Time Killer), a co-producer and co-writer for Mad Detective, To compliments his wacky story with an equally puzzling camerawork. Instead of following the main protagonists in a clear-cut fashion, the camera often lingers behind, or observes from afar if you will, almost as if unsure whether or not to follow the action (take a look at the screen caps). The visual effect is rather strange but in tune with the film's wild narrative. The graphic violence on the other hand adds a near surrealistic flavor proving that To not only knows everything there is to know about style but is also unafraid to explore territories other directors with a proven record would have completely ignored.
Mad Detective Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mad Detective is the first Blu-ray release by UK-based distribs Eureka Entertainment. Having built a solid reputation with their SDVD output, the distribs certainly do not disappoint with their first Blu-ray release.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Mad Detective boasts a solid and very convincing look. Finely detailed, with a natural film appearance and a nuanced color-scheme, the transfer is indeed terrific. The heavy blue tint favored by cinematographer Ceng Siu-keung is also kept intact. The film's delicately lensed night scenes, where a softer look becomes evident, are free of digital enhancement, and as a result, clarity remains consistent. During the daylight scenes, contrast levels are also excellent. I certainly was not able to detect any DNR alterations either. To sum it all up, this is a terrific looking, very convincing presentation of fantastic film. (Note: this is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Mad Detective Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Cantonese DTS-HD Master 5.1, Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and Cantonese Dolby Stereo 2.0. I opted for the DTS-HD Master 5.1 track and later on did selective comparisons with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track.
First of all, there is a healthy amount of activity in the surround channels. During some of the shooting scenes the clarity and punch the loseless audio track delivers are outstanding (the bike scene is indicative of the strong basics the DTS-HD Master mix boasts). Second, on the more nuanced side of things, both dialog and music appear to be perfectly tackled by the audio producers. The dialog is very easy to follow while the supporting soundtrack is perfectly mixed with it. I did not detect any hissing, pop-ups, or cracks either. As I mentioned earlier, I did compare the DTS-HD Master mix with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track during a few specific scenes (the shooting scene in the forest; the bike scene, where the detective, his new friend and their wives dine; etc) and could not hear any specific advantages that one of the tracks had over the other. Both high and low frequencies appeared identical as well. Optional English subtitles are provided for the main feature (Please note that the subtitles are placed outside of the film frame).
Mad Detective Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to the extras provided on the actual disc, Eureka Entertainment offer a nicely done, and very elegant, 16-page booklet. In it, you will find an essay by David Bordwell (he is the author of Planet Hong Kong Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment and other books on the history and aesthetics of film) titled "Doubling Down". Here you will find a wealth of information pertaining to the complex structure of the film, Milkyway Image, Johnny To and his work and stylistic preferences, as well as a broader analysis of the director's previous films.
On the actual disc you will find the following extras: Q&A with Johnnie To at the Cinematheque Francais Johnnie To retrospective (recorded in Paris, France) where the director answers a number of questions pertaining to the complex composition of Mad Detective; a section with exclusive cast interviews shot during the Far East Film Festival with Lau Ching-Wan and Lam Suet (Udine, Italy, April 2008); and an interview with Johnnie To, which was recorded after the French premiere of the film (March, France, 2008). The original UK theatrical trailer is also offered. (Note: All of the extras are indeed not coded and in NTSC. Therefore, they are perfectly playable on your Region-A PS3 or SA).
Mad Detective Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is obvious why Mad Detective threw so many mainstream critics in a state of mass confusion. This film is unlike anything we have ever seen from Johnnie To -- as is his latest film, Sparrow -- and likely to completely redefine its image amongst hardcore HK film buffs. I loved it! It is stylishly-lensed, wacky, and dark enough, in an almost perverse kind of way, to make me want to see it again. The Blu-ray disc on the other hand, the first release by British distributors Eureka Entertainment, is superb. It boasts a top-notch transfer, a great audio, and enough valuable supplemental materials to answer the many questions you are likely to have after you are done watching Mad Detective. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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