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Blind Detective - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Man Tam

Hong Kong 2013

Romance, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Johnnie To

Andy Lau
Sammi Cheng
Guo Tao
Philip Keung
Lam Suet
Lo Hoi-Pang
Wong Man-Wai
Ma Tai-Lo
Yiu Ying-Ying
Zi Yi

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Blind Detective

Story: Johnston (Andy Lau) has lost his eyesight and therefore has been forced to quit his work as a police detective. But through his buddy Szeto (Guo Tao) he is often hired by the police as a consultant. However, Johnston is pretty eccentric. But thanks to his outstanding skills as an investigator he catches the attention of Ho Ka-tung (Sammi Cheng), who wants to hire him as a consultant. Ten years ago her schoolmate vanished after she had an argument with her. At the same time Ka-tung hopes that she can also learn something from Johnston while he investiages, because as a policewoman she isn't really that good. Johnston gets comfortable at Ka-tung's place, who is rich because of a heritage and lives really well, with the excuse that he wants to feel the vibe of this case. As things evolve Ka-tung gets the impression that Johnston isn't truely taking care of her case since he is also working on other cases along the way. The blind detective has already found a hot trail concerning the vanished schoolmate, though, which points at a serial killer.

Review: There are a few acting duos that simply bring to screen a fantastic chemistry, especially when in the hands of a director like Johnnie To. "Blind Detective" without a doubt thrives on its two actors and thus works better than it actually should be possible. Because, to be honest, To apparently doesn't know what he wants to deliver here. Romantic comedy? Undoubtfully it is, and for most part not a bad one at that. Crime story? Yes, but one that lacks coherence. The constant change in tone makes it impossible for To's newest work to gain momentum and it isn't written that well either. The film is fun nonetheless, but at the end the viewer feels a little bit lost. What were we supposed to be get out of this? Impossible to make out...

Blind Detective - Film Screenshot 11

Somehow the romantic story is kept together by a case, more particularly the search for Minnie, Ho's friend. But even this case is over and over chopped up in pieces by some other cases Johnston takes on at the same time. The screenplay oftentimes leaves the impression that it has been written by someone suffering from attention deficit disorder. The story only seems to be one big excuse for the two actors to have a fun time. That humor isn't falling by the wayside goes without saying. But especially in the beginning it doesn't hit the mark, even seems a bit alienating and ridiculous. Later on, there are in fact a couple of funny scenes, though, which work out particularly well because of the great acting of the two stars.

Blind Detective - Film Screenshot 12

Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng have already proven in Johnnie To's und Wai Ka-Fai's "Needing You" that they have an extremely good screen presence and inspire each other in their roles. In "Yesterday once More" To reunited the two on screen, but it took nine years for us to see them together again. For many that was reason enough to grant the movie box-office success, but critics were far less lenient with "Blind Detective". This also isn't really a suprise since director To proved with his recent movie "Drug War" once more what he is capable of as a filmmaker. Sure, if he wants to he can shoot a few comedies next to his gritty thrillers every now and then, but when he does they actually should be comedies.

Yet, "Blind Detective" tries to be a thriller as well. Sometimes there are a few bloody scenes, there is some dark look the way we know it from To, but it all doesn't fit together. Only during one rather dramatic scene the humor wells up in a very skillful way as it also stands opposite to some genre clichés. Andy Lau as a blind man on the other hand has a handful of unnecesary slapstick moments in the beginning, although he manages to bestow a certain color on his character which makes this excusable. Sammi Cheng does a great job making her unusual cop rememberable. By the way, the shooting had to be paused for a few months since Cheng had been diagnosed with Ménière's disease, but this can't be the reason why the film feels so fragmented.

Blind Detective - Film Screenshot 13

To never really seems to know where he wants to go storywise or concerning the movie's tone. It's almost as if he just gave the two actors some space and time on a nice playground. However, I can't agree with what other critics say. "Blind Detective" is a clumsy affair, the story is constantly wandering off, you never know what you are dealing with, there are a few moments where nothing is happening, but all in all this romantic drama is after all also pretty entertaining most of the time. Surely not a film you have to recommend and compared to what director To is actually capable of it is in fact a disappointing result, but the two lead actors have a fun ride and their enjoyment is contagious. An entertaining movie with countless downsides. Either you bear with it and enjoy the movie or you simply don't.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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