The Detective

Oxide Pang and his brother have of late churned out so many horror films that it comes as a bit of a surprise to see this very solid and atmospheric tale in which they follow all the basic rules of film noir. Tam (Aaron Kwok) is a low rent detective with a cluttered office, a fan that doesn’t work and a case load that wouldn’t fill a tea cup. He works the mean streets of Bangkok – in particular in Chinatown (which conveniently allows all the characters to speak Cantonese!) where everyone seems to have something to hide. Not too particular about what cases he takes as long as there is money on the table he accepts a job from a casual acquaintance named Lung (played by one of my favorites, Shing Fui-on who has been off the screen for the past couple of years after getting and beating cancer and it is a delight seeing him again).

Lung tells him that a woman is trying to kill him but he doesn’t know why or who she is and all he has is a photo of her. He then foams at the mouth bringing back lovely memories of him in Blue Jean Monster. Tam begins looking for her but soon realizes that something is amiss as every lead ends up with a dead body waiting for him and then it appears that he may be next on this list of corpses. He begins to tie the bodies together into a possible conspiracy but still hasn’t been able to locate the woman in the picture – how does she fit into this puzzle? Will he find out before he is dead?

The film primarily lives on the tense atmosphere that Pang creates - utilizing a soundtrack that would normally be associated with a horror film to keep the viewer constantly on edge and setting it often at night as Tam doggedly chases clues down dark ominous alleys and every seamy lonely hallway in Bangkok. In the end the plot never quite lives up to its potential and it comes in for a lazy soft landing as if Oxide and his co-writers just couldn’t come up with an ending that had any punch and so settled for squishy and sentimental instead. But it reeks lovingly of noir with all the usual suspects in place – the persistent detective who muddles through, the femme fatale ala Laura in a photo, the frantic car chase, the attempts on his life, a seduction scene (served up with gusto by Jo Koo), the dead bodies steadily piling up, the police buddy who gets him out of jams and the constant danger of the night. It only needed a cameo by Elisha Cook Jr. to be complete.

My rating for this film: 7.0