Just watched Johnnie To/Wai Kar-Fai’s Mad Detective again last night and found myself completely enthralled by it. The brilliant trifecta of To’s direction, Fai’s clever script and Lau Ching Wan’s astounding performance make this really one of the best films in the Milky Way canon.
The big 3 are at their absolute best in this dark thriller. To takes a scattershot storyline and flushes it out with his clean and precise direction. He drenches each scene in darkness, only occasionally offering a glimmer of light for the viewer to follower. As a result, he manages to create this murky sense of suspense within each frame.
With the explosive opening scene featuring the infamous ear slice, you can tell Wai Ka- Fai is going to push things to the limit. He pulls no punches with the violence and isn’t afraid to confound his audience with his loopy premise. Fai even takes the trademark misogyny in Milky Way films and incorporates it into his script. He’s delves into the fractured psyche of disturbed man and shows the audience how skewed his perception of the world is. The Mad Detective has an almost phobic view of women because he doesn’t understand them.
Finally, enough can’t be said about Lau Ching Wan and his importance to Milky Way. It’s no coincidence that the most memorable films in the Milky Way catalogue are the ones he’s in. Mad Detective is no exception. Wan is magnetic as a man who’s enliven and crippled by his uncanny ability. He walks the fine line between lucidity and lunacy, making him endearing and dangerous at the same time.