Quirky sleuthing action is on the cards when the Pang Brothers take a breather from their line of horror films to craft The Detective. With Oxide Pang in the director's chair and twin brother Danny joining him as co-producer, ghouls and their genre’s clichés take the back seat as the pair piece together a lively Bangkok-set thriller.
Introduced to hopping Thai pop music, Hong Kong star Aaron Kwok plays Detective Chan, a muddling private eye in Bangkok's Chinatown who’s prone to getting on the nerves of the local cops and trying out unorthodox investigation methods. When customer Lung (Shing Fui-on) turns up in his ramshackle office one day with a photo of an unnamed woman he says wants to kill him, and plunks an enticing wad of cash on his desk, Chan hops onto the trail. As he hits the streets in the local Chinese community armed with the woman’s photo but no other clues to her identity, red herrings start to crop up and deaths occur around him. And when it becomes clear that there's a wider crime story afoot and that someone doesn't want Chan snooping around, the detective soon finds himself running for his life as well.
The Pang Brothers’ horror line of recent years, from The Eye to Re-Cycle, leaves little question of their abilities to craft slick big-screen entertainment, so this diversion toward an atmospheric, high-end thriller is a welcome one. Nicely lensed by cinematographer Decha Srimatra in the back streets and decrepit buildings of the Thai capital, the film throws in a few loud moments of horror-movie style but also some chases and explosions for good measure, too. What’s more, after it turns out that Chan's task isn't merely one of tracking down his customer's mysterious would-be killer, there's more to the detective's story than just a life of investigations.
With The Detective, Aaron Kwok continues his strong series of leading roles, which shifted up a gear in Benny Chan's Divergence, then soared in Patrick Tam's subsequent After This Our Exile. Here Kwok undergoes another dramatic makeover as the jittery and likable private eye, decked out in retro clothes and heavy jewelry, and his character living up to the C+ grade the film's Chinese title offers. Surrounding players also hailing from Hong Kong include Liu Kai-chi and Wayne Lai, while Jo Koo nabs the movie's raciest moment in a rapidly edited encounter - one of several detours keeping The Detective an engaging and fast-moving ride.