Blind Detective (Hong Kong, 2013)

Johnnie To’s Blind Detective (2013) is  by no means a perfect film. It lacks the trademark grit and noir atmosphere of To’s earlier crime pictures and reeks of bad plotting. Yet with that said, if you shift your expectations away from the procedural elements and revel in the pleasures of the film”s screwball comedy, then Blind Detective can be considered as a funny enough addition to To’s romantic-comedy oeuvre.

Starring To veterans Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng as buddy cop partners, Blind Detective begins with a kinetic chase scene as Sammi Cheng’s Goldie is tasked by her commanding officer to tail Lau’s Holmesian private investigator, Johnston. Through media coverage, we find out that an anti-social citizen has been dumping sulfuric acid from the roofs of Hong Kong’s high-rises. Johnston is on the trail of the culprit but the local cops have all eyes on Johnston and within minutes a showdown between cops, criminal, and Johnston ends with the bad guy captured and Goldie and Johnston having their meet-cute.

With this initial meeting we get a good handle of exactly who these two are: Johnston, a prodigy in solving crimes but completely lost in the weeds when interacting with people, and Goldie, an against the grain female detective who’s athletic prowess is tempered by her inability to solve cases like a “real” detective. The two come together when Goldie asks Johnston to help find her friend who disappeared, without a trace, 20 years ago. Johnston casino online agrees to the case and then begins using Goldie as his assistant; having her run after criminals, doing surveillance work, and, most importantly, reenacting the last moments of murder victims whose cases have been left unsolved.

The scenes between Johnston and Goldie as they piece together the how and why of several brutal crimes are the real reason to see this movie. The chemistry between Lau and Cheng has always been strong. After working together on so many Johnnie To romantic comedies, both actors seem to be sufficiently comfortable with one another that, even when Lau and Cheng are bashing each other’s heads in with a hammer, slashing wrists, or getting into slap fights, one can’t help smirking as both are clearly relishing their Grand Guignol reenactments.

Though Blind Detective has a threadbare main narrative, the film is also is riddled with episodic sub-plots that are either introduced and then forgotten, or just left hanging in the air. If the central concept was executed as a television series, thereby enabling Lau and Cheng to stretch their comedy muscles the while giving the viewer a new murder that Johnston and Goldie have to solve, it could work wonders. Its popularity would inevitably make Andy Lau’s Johnston character one of the top television sleuths with a disability, right up there with Gregory House and Adrian Monk. However, what we have here is a half-formed work from an established master. There are better Andy Lau-Sammi Cheng collaborations out there, many of them directed by To himself, and Blind Detective, through no fault of the two leads, falls short of being anything but a curiosity item.