Tam Chan (Aaron Kwok) is a private detective, and as far as we can tell he’s not a very good one. Working in the Chinatown section of what I guess is Bangkok, Tam doesn’t have any clients that we can see and to be honest we wonder how he can even pay his bills. Then he gets a visit from the local butcher Lung (Fui-On Shing) who gives him a picture of a pretty woman named Sum (Natthasinee Pinyopiyavid) with the claim that this woman is trying to kill him. It’s pretty clear that Lung, a drunk who is prone to combustible vomiting, is completely out of his mind but he does drop a healthy set of bills on Tam’s desk and now Tam is on the job as Oxide Pang’s crime thriller ‘The Detective’ gets on its way.
Soon we met Tam’s best friend Chak (Kai Chi Liu), a local police constable who is probably the main reason that Tam isn’t homeless since he has taken it upon himself to look out for the young man which, as it turns out, is more work than his real job. So Tam sets about looking for Sum but instead he finds a man hanging from his light fixture. His good friend the cop tells him that it is pretty clear that this man died from his own hand but Tam has his doubts, convinced that he's stumbled upon a conspiracy.
Tam veers his investigation away from finding Sum, who nobody has seen for a couple of days, to investigating this man hanging from the ceiling. This little misdirection has opened a can of worms that is causing all kinds of trouble and is turning up dead body after dead body. Chak has told his friend, repeatedly, that he needs to stop this investigation, mainly because almost everything that has happened is easily explained and is related in no way, shape, or form to a conspiracy, but bull headedly Tam soldiers on.
One would think that being shot at, run down, beat up, narrowly escaping explosions and falling refrigerators would also serve in Tam calling off his investigation, but it just solidifies his resolve. He is convinced there is a conspiracy and he’s going to uncover this conspiracy even it costs him his own life. Despite the fact he’s a crap detective.
‘The Detective’ is an interesting film from Oxide Pang in the sense that it is consistently entertaining, but I’m so sure that it’s actually any good. It’s entertaining because Aaron Kwok has created a unique character with his detective who can’t fight, isn’t too terribly bright, doesn’t seem to have any real detecting skills with his only real attribute being his tenacity. Aaron Kwok completely makes this character work as Tam just bulls forward on what appears to be a mystery of his own making with the script giving us a perfunctory explanation on why he might be the way that he is.
‘The Detective’ is also entertaining because Oxide Pang directs a movie that doesn’t reveal its hand too early, is gritty and hard edged and is presented in a way that keeps the audience engaged, which gives us the strong desire to see exactly how this mystery, real or perceived by our main character, is going to play out.
Now the thing that kind of prevents ‘The Detective’ from being an altogether good movie, despite its entertainment value, is that Pang is working off of a script that just leaves too many things open and unresolved in addition to having some script elements pop up for the sole reason of propelling the plot along and being sort of disconnected from the actual story itself. I assume by the end of the movie that we have finally found our culprit, but if this is the case, the culprit did some things during this movie that didn’t make a lot of sense. If the goal was to get rid of the detective, which one would think would be this goal considering this culprit got a hold of a high speed dump truck and a gun and all other kinds of things to get rid of this guy, he could’ve done this many times over. Other characters do things that I didn’t really understand, but it did serve the purpose of giving our detective more clues, even I’m not really sure we can say with any certainty he actually solved the case. His tenacity dragged the case out which allowed some things to come to life, but as a detective Chan wasn’t all that good.
It is a Pang Brother’s joint so there was also a supernatural element to it all, which I probably would’ve preferred it didn’t introduce, though it was well executed and pretty creepy, but I liked the idea of a real world crime story more than one with a supernatural twist.
But ‘The Detective’ was entertaining despite some seriously unresolved plot issues, even though we had an ending montage that tried its best to wrap it all up. With a talented star, a skilled director and a intriguing story driving it, ‘The Detective’ overcame its short comings to deliver a solid crime story.