At first, "Mad Detective" didn't sit well. It came off a bit fractured, not allowing itself a lot of breathing room or explanation for its audience. Then about 2 days after watching it, the film actually struck home. The film never left my mind for 2 days and that's when I realized that all of the things that bothered me about it, were meant to bother its viewer. It's as if the film was playing mind games on the viewer in such a subtle manner that it took quite some time for it to actually sink in. Which is why I finally came to realize that this film is pretty damn good.
Bun is a retired (let go) detective from the police force. He's a modern day Sherlock Holmes in a way, as his odd way of viewing the world and how it works allows him to see and manipulate it differently...differently enough for the police force to let him go and make him see psychiatrist. His wife leaves him and his world slowly decays until a young detective whom has admired his work, pulls him back in to help him solve a tough case of a missing cop and a missing gun. The suspect is the cop's old partner, Chi Wai, and the case is cold. It's just the thing that is going to make Bun's life hell...and allow him to live again.
What really makes this film work is this idea of 'real' world versus the real world. Bun sees the world differently from his counterparts and although, he is deemed crazy and mad throughout the film, its hard not to side with the man. He can't live in the world around him as its moralities and societal pressures don't match with his view points. He is able to see people's inner personalities and with a visual que from cult director Johnnie To, its this fractured existence he sees us in that is the 'real' world. He sees people for who they are and not what people make themselves to be. Its this idea of 'real' versus 'truth' that makes this film a must see for any one that's a fan of societal moralities and how police work can rely too much on logic in a world that may not always be logical. The story and the character are enough to make this film a head above the rest of its 'cop and crime' counterparts.
Of course, to pull off such an ambitious take on film making and storytelling, one needs acting just as intense and subtle as the story lends itself too. Brilliant acting all the way around (especially from our 'mad detective') counterbalances the visual style of Johnnie To perfectly. It's a match made in heaven in film standards. The use of broken mirrors, fluttering papers, multiple personalities, and intense character studies make this film a multi-layer masterpiece that lends itself to a multitude of viewings. Another trait of a modern classic.
"Mad Detective" may not have been what I initially considered it to be, but with time to chew on the message it sends, and a solid attention span for the details, this is a film worth watching again and again.
Written By Matt Reifschneider