ContactSales: Media Asia, Hong Kong ([email protected])
Premiere: Cannes Film Festival (Midnight Screenings), 19 May 2013 . Theatrical release: Hong Kong, 4 Jul 2013; China, 4 Jul 2013.
Presented by Media Asia Film Production (HK), Emperor Film Production (HK), Sil-Metropole Organization (HK), China Film (CN), Beijing Rosat Film & TV Production (CN), Media Asia Film Distribution (Beijing) (CN). Produced by Milkyway Image (HK). Executive producers: Peter Lam, Albert Yeung, Song Dai, Han Sanping, Li Shaohong. Producers: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai.
Script: Wai Ka-fai, Yau Nai-hoi, Ryker Chan, Yu Xi. Photography: Cheng Siu-keung. Editing supervision: David Richardson. Editing: Allen Leung. Music: Hal Foxton Beckett. Production design: Bruce Yu. Art direction: Horace Ma. Costume design: Steven Tsang, Stephanie Wong. Sound: David Richardson. Action: Yick Tin-hung. Visual effects: Ken Law. Associate director: Mak Kai-kwong.
Cast: Andy Lau (Chong Si-teun/Johnston), Sammi Cheng (Ho Ka-tung), Guo Tao (Szeto Fat-bo), Gao Yuanyuan (Tingting), Nick Wang, Lang Yueting, Lo Hoi-pang, Bonnie Wong, Lam Suet, Philip Keung.
Blind Detective 盲探
Contemporary comedy crime drama
2013, colour, 2.35:1, 128 mins
Directed by Johnnie To (杜琪峰)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 22 May 2013, 09:15 AM (HKT)
Manic Johnnie To crime comedy is a total flop, in which nothing seems to work. Asian and genre events at best.
Hong Kong, the present day. Before he was forced to retire four years ago after an accident that resulted in detached retinas, Chong Si-teun (Andy Lau) was a gifted police detective. He now handles cold cases for "bounty" fees, via his old police friend Szeto Fat-bo (Guo Tao). When hit-team detective Ho Ka-tung (Sammi Cheng) sees Si-teun cleverly solve the case of an acid-thrower, she gets him to help her solve an old personal mystery - the disappearance a decade ago of her high-school friend Siu-man after she refused to go out with her one night. Since then, Ka-tung has always felt guilty. In-between using her to solve other cold cases, Si-teun gradually works out that Siu-man was the victim of a serial killer who murdered girls during the years 1995-2007, with Siu-man his last victim. And eventually he finds a suspect.
The less said about Blind Detective 盲探 (2013) the better. A rare example of a Johnnie TO 杜琪峯 movie in which nothing seems to work, and even at a basic craft level is below the prolific Hong Kong director's usual standards, Detective seems like an aggressive return by To to his Hong Kong roots — following his foray into new territory with the Mainland-shot Drug War 毒戰 (2012) — that is only half thought-through and especially slapdash at a script level. Among his 50-odd films as a director, To has stumbled before — My Left Eye Sees Ghosts 我左眼見到鬼 (2002), Mad Detective 神探 (2007) and Linger 蝴蝶飛 (2008) are notable examples from the past decade or so — but not to such an extent as here and not across a running time (128 minutes) that seems as interminable as here. A high-concept idea typical of his film-making partner WAI Ka-fai 韋家輝 — a blind amateur detective who solves crimes by intuition and lateral thinking hooks up with a female detective to form an odd-couple partnership — this scatty Detective makes the earlier (and very similar) Mad Detective seem like a properly developed idea.
Stars Andy LAU 劉德華 and Sammi CHENG 鄭秀文 have made memorable rom-com music together in previous To titles (Needing You... 孤男寡女 (2000), Yesterday Once More 龍鳳鬥 (2004), Love on a Diet 瘦身男女 (2001)), and the energetic Cheng, though slightly too old for the part, is well cast as a rambunctious police detective who inveigles Lau's amateur sleuth into solving the disappearance of her high-school friend Siu-man some 10 years ago. But Detective is only peripherally a rom-com, and Lau is badly miscast here as grumpy, independent investigator Chong Si-teun: the role requires an actor with much more screen weight and rumpled personality (among To's stable, someone like Anthony WONG 黃秋生 springs to mind), and Lau always seems to be reaching for a performance that's beyond his grasp.
Among the several Mainland actors thrown into the mix, comic GUO Tao 郭濤 looks and sounds completely out of his comfort zone (especially when dubbed into Cantonese) as the manic police boss and GAO Yuanyuan 高圓圓 (previously in To's Don't Go Breaking My Heart 單身男女 (2011) and Romancing in Thin Air 高海拔之戀Ⅱ (2012)) is thrown away in a brief role as a beauty from Chong's past. But it's the script, by Wai and other regular writers, that's principally at fault: between the sequences of overheated comedy (played at top volume) the detection scenes don't evoke any special magic or mystery and the way in which Chong reaches solutions seems completely arbitrary, with no sense of real deduction (either lateral or otherwise). If Mad Detective was a Wai script that needed at least one more re-write, Blind Detective is one that needs re-writing from scratch.
Production values are just OK by To's regular team, here augmented by Canadian TV composer Hal Foxton Beckett.