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癲佬正傳 (1986)
The Lunatics

Reviewed by: Tonic
Date: 05/16/2008

Watch this movie; it's probably the most important HK drama ever.

That's all I can say.

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 08/13/2007
Summary: a surprise...

when tina (deannie yip) witnesses dr tsui (stanley fung) subdue a mentally ill man, named doggie (tony leung), who had been causing trouble at the fish market, she decides to write an article about the mentally ill and homeless people of hong kong. initially ill-informed and unsympathetic, tina soon finds herself becoming drawn into a hidden world, where people have made lives for themselves outside of society. as she spends more time with tsui, the tragedy and prejudice that surrounds 'the lunatics' becomes more and more apparent, making her re-evaluate her beliefs...

for some reason, i was under the impression that this was meant to be pretty dreadful; crammed with over-the-top performances, a less than politically correct view of the mentally ill and filled with cheap shocks. this impression was wrong...

the film is derek yee's directorial debut and he does a pretty good job, bringing his own script to the screen. it's a little heavy handed, perhaps melodramatic, at times and yee has a definite agenda; painting the world of the homeless and mentally ill as grim, unsympathetic and tragic, with very little reward or empathy for those who take on the thankless task of trying to make a difference. still, the performances and execution of the film make it a very effective piece.

stanley fung, in a rare leading role, puts in a fine performance as tsui, whilst deannie yip handles the transformation from unsympathetic to empathetic in a nicely under-stated fashion. as well as fung, praise should be given to all of those portraying the mentally ill, who avoid the vile caricature led performances that one might have expected to see: tony leung's childlike doggie, the can lady, chow yun-fat's asocial cheung and, most notably, paul chun's rehabilitated tsuen, give solid performances.

it's not without it's flaws, but for a social-drama which serves as a commentary on the treatment of the mentally ill in society, it is pretty good. a lot better than i expected, at least...

Reviewed by: ABCkid
Date: 04/18/2003
Summary: Remarkable and compelling

Stanley Fung Shui-fan(Lucky Stars series, Romancing Star, etc) has the lead role as Tsui. A vigilant but struggling social worker who cares for the mentally ill of Hong Kong. Unfortunately for Tsui and HK's mentally ill, there's just not enough care, tolerance, understanding, and a big enough budget to cope with the problem. Deanie Yip as the reporter Ms. Lau tags along Tsui(to his annoyance and fustration) to scope up a story on the "crazy people". A dangerously wild but childlike Doggie(Tony Leung), a granny who likes to scare people with scissors and lives in a yard full of cans, a loony street doctor(John Shum Kin-fun), a caring but totally incapable father(Chow Yun-fat) are some of Tsui's cases. But his one success story is Chuen(Paul Chun), who recovered after yrs at the mental hospital. But Tsui's work is tough and endless, and Ms. Lau slowly realizes his hardships. Unfortunately after being denied seeing his son, Tsui's one success story Chuen breaks down and fell back to his illness..........

This is a disturbing film. Not exactly in the shock you with gore way(though this is alot of blood and shock), but more in the way of the movie portrays how the community treats the mentally ill. Much of the tragedy stems from their ignorance, their fear and it leads to the death of more than a few people, including the central character.

Stanley Fung is no doubt a totally great but underated dramatic actor, playing something very different than his comic persona in his more popular movies. His perfromance is a serious, restrained yet powerful one. His emotions are clearly felt through the screen. His character is diligent and committed to his work but the yrs of seemingly endless setbacks and only a limited success has taken a toll on his committment to his cause. This is a terrific performance from him, worthy of a more acclaimed career. Paul Chun as Chuen is also a highlight. A disturbing but sympathetic performance of a man driven over the edge. Unable to be employed because of his past illness, he is cared for by his aging and suffering mother. His fustration of being denied of seeing his son soon leads him to strangling chickens and eventually taking up a knife. His scene in his son's kindergarten school, of him weeping while blood-soaked is just emotionally powerful. Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung has small, but compelling supporting roles in the film. Their performances are notable and at the same time showed how pitiful their characters are. Chow Yun-fat(before being A-list) is quite disturbing without being over-the-top as the mentally handicapped father of two. He is full of fear and anxiety of his secret, yet genuinely cares for his kid(s). His secret of his missing son is shockingly tragic. Tony Leung, also before his Best Actor status, is very brave to play such a role as Doggie in so early of his movie career. Doggie is dangerously playful yet at the same time helplessly lost in a child's mind, unable to grasp the situation he is in which eventually leads to the final tragedy with Tsui. You don't see Andy Lau playing such characters. Overall a very great film if you feel like being sad, but definitely not for happy days.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/24/2003

If it were me making these decisions, I'd make a law that made it a criminal offence to misrepresent a movie on the DVD cover. In this case, showing big pictures of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Chow Yun Fat would be BANNED since their parts amount to little more than cameos. Worse, though, is that main star Stanley Fung doesn't even get mentioned. Not a picture on the front, nor his name... anywhere. Particularly criminal since this is almost certainly the best role and performance of his (not particularly notable) career. At least co-star Deannie Yip gets her name in the credits though.

Somehow the cover had me thinking THE LUNATICS was a comedy, too - possibly the silly hat Leung Chiu-Wai seems to be wearing on the cover. The fact he's also holding a meat cleaver and looking seriously pissed should perhaps have told me it wasn't all giggles though.

THE LUNATICS is actually something of a socio-drama, looking into the way the mentally handicapped are treated by Hong Kong's society and authorities. It's a slightly melodramatic account of the matter, maybe even a tad hysterical. It's good that Derek Yee decided to shine a light on a section of the population that tends to get swept under the carpets of peoples minds.

Reporter Deannie Yip joins social worker Stanley Fung to observe his work with the mentally handicapped for a while, and write a report for her paper. She starts off somewhat insensitive and arrogant, but gradually becomes humbled by what she sees. Stanley tries to give care and support to those that are unable to integrate themselves with society, but have been left in its dubious care none-the-less. It seems to be rather a thankless task. We meet a number of his patients, of which Paul Chun and Leung Chiu-Wai get the most attention.

THE LUNATICS is quite an angry movie, and points fingers wildly at the government and the general population for failing to properly look after its most needy members. The life of a mentally handicapped person in Hong Kong is painted as a grim one, and the life of a social services worker possibly even more so. It probably didn't help a lot with recruitment.

The script has a good message it wants to make, and it is somewhat effective in doing so. It doesn't show much depth or subtlety in its understanding of the mentally handicapped or their situation, though. It's sincere, but its viewpoint is a little too simplistic.

Derek Yee directs well, though, and with intensity. Performances are all good, with Stanley Fung's subdued but emotionally powerful performance being particularly noteworthy. He hasn't been given that many chances to really prove himself as an actor over the years, so he must have been pleased to have this opportunity.

The movie is quite powerful, if not profound. It's a pretty bleak movie, far from the comedy I originally expected it to be. It's the kind of serious movie that doesn't get made all that often in Hong Kong, and for that reason especially it is recommended.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: laadolf
Date: 08/31/2002
Summary: Unflinching social commentary

The Lunatics is an intriguing film of a rare type for either Hong Kong or Hollywood--an unapologetic social commentary. This film has been criticized for sensationalizing its material, and presenting its titular subjects in violent terms. The filmmakers certainly trod a thin line between making a socially relevant yet still cinematically crowd pleasing film, but when all is considered, some of the more sensational elements can be forgiven by what the film tries to do for its subjects.

The social workers who care for the homeless mentally ill seem universally to be overworked and underpaid for the services they provide. The system profiled in this film is that of Hong Kong, but the problems and heartbreak encountered could be true of any society in any country the world over. The film follows the path of a social worker, Tsui (Stanley Fung Sui Faan) tasked with taking care of people marginalized by society, trying to help those people in his charge, even when they don't want help or don't understand that it is being given. His work is complicated by a journalist Miss Lau (Deannie Yip Tak Han) who with good intentions, wants to write an expose on homelessness, hoping to create a story that will ensure a compassionate outpouring of financial support. Her presence, however complicates an already problematic situation.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai is almost unrecognizable in an affecting, book-ended performance as the homeless, childlike Doggie. Doggie hangs around a fish market, trying to connect with the people who frequent and work there. He is inarticulate, and his attempts to draw the fish market denizens into play instead create fear and panic ultimately with tragic consequences.

Chow Yun-Fat is memorable in small, but heartrending role as Chung, the
father of two who lives in the city dump. Chung ekes out a marginal existence, but does his best to be a good father to his children. When the social worker chances across him on a street corner, Chung flees. The social worker and the reporter are told that the homeless man "has trouble" and they follow Chung to his shack in the dump. There they find one of Chung's children deathly ill, the other missing. The denouement of this episode is wrenching and tragic.

The third mental patient Tsuen , played by Paul Chin Pui, at first seems to be a success story of rehabilitation for the homeless and mentally ill. He lives with his mother in her flat and seems after his discharge from the mental hospital to be coping well and becoming a responsible member of society. Soon, however, events in his personal life threaten his hard won stability and he begins a downward spiral that ends in violent tragedy. Chin's depiction of a man losing control is disturbing, yet fascinating to watch.

The film winds down to a tragic conclusion--but one that offers at least a small glimmer of hope. Compelling in its depiction of the shortfalls of modern society to care for the disenfranchised, it serves as a cautionary tale with relevance far beyond Hong Kong's shores. While the film may not succeed at everything it attempts,it is to be commended for shining an unwavering light on the subject matter it has courageously tackled.

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 02/06/2002
Summary: Strange

A very strange movie I remember this being. Half comedy, half drama. As the title suggests, it is about people with mental illness. I saw this again recently and didn't realise what a big cast list it had and is actually overall a lot better than I remembered it all those years back.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by: nikita
Date: 02/19/2001

Lunatics, The (HK-1986) 1h 28m, Drama

Version reviewed: Universe DVD; Region 0 (all-region); lbx; sub languages: English, Chinese or Malaysian; dub languages: Cantonese or Mandarin; sound: digital mono; supplemental material: trailer)

This Message Film never relents, apologizes or forgives in pursuit of the declaration: We Must Improve Health Care For The Mentally Unstable. And therein lies its strength.

Writer-Director Derek Yee Tung-Sing delivers a searing portrait of the mentally and emotionally ill, most
of whom live on the street. In researching an expose, journalist Tina Lau (Deannie Yip Tak Han) struggles to keep up with Tsui (Stanley Fung Sui Faan), a social worker coping with an impossibly large case-load.

The actors -- especially Paul Chun Pui as Tsuen, a "cured" patient who relapses dramatically -- manage sympathetic performances in the face of Yee Tung-Sing’s unflattering script, which paints every unbalanced person as a potential killer (through either an attack of madness, accident, or neglect).

For a "downer" story that attempts to uplift with a hope-lies-in-persistence closing, THE LUNATICS percolates along quite nicely via sharp pacing, as Tsui and Lau lurch from one insanity-crisis to the next. Box-office kingpins Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung Chiu Wai drop in for bit roles -- one of them, pivotal. The DVD packaging promises these two are the Stars of the film, of course, but that is to be expected in the recently desperate, struggling HK movie industry. Forgive the marketing department this trespass, and you will not easily forget this film.

© AP McQuiddy, thu15feb01

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 08/04/2000
Summary: Flawed but quite good

I pretty much agree with TequilaYuen's review. Here's a few more comments.
The script and structure of this film leaves much to be desired. The opening 1/2 hour has a serious and overly ponderous tone which makes one want to reach for the eject button. A couple of things hold the interest (but only just). One is the old hag with the tin cans (she's a scream). The other is the quality of the acting which, despite the uneven script, is very high.
Stanley Fung gives a very good performance as the earnest and skilled mental health worker.
But the story begins to gel, suddenly, when Chow Yun Fat appears. He's only on for ten minutes, but his performance as the frightened neurotic Chung is compelling. Makes you wonder why his part wasn't enlarged.
But the best performance is given by veteran Paul Chun, as the recovered (or so it seems) divorced dad who grieves for lack of access to his adored young son.
The billing of the actors in the front credits is misleading, because it is "in order of appearance". Therefore, I've set Stanley Fung and Deannie Yip to 1 and 2, being the main characters, with Paul Chun at 3 being the main support actor. Tony Leung, given "top billing", appears only in the opening and closing scenes. Chow YF, given eighth billing, is clearly more important, though still with a small part.
And watch out - the ending is very depressing, and involves more than one character being killed.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: TequilaYuen
Date: 06/11/2000
Summary: Good, but flawed!

Apparently Derek Yee became very famous after directing the drama 'C'est La Vie Mon Cheri' with Lau ching Wan. I haven't seen the film, but it was apparently so popular that his older films were dusted off and released. He was an action star for Shaw brothers who, late in his career turned to making social dramas.
I recieved this one in my Chow Yun Fat bundle of DVD's, but his screen time is limited to about twenty minutes, he could have phoned in his performance, which is a tragedy beacause he is great in the film.

The story concerns a social worker, who helps the street derelicts of Hong Kong who refuse to be aided by shelters and welfare programs. He is aided (unwillingly) by a reporter doing work on all the great things he is doing. She learns about many of the Hong Kong street people and the problems plaguing it'sstreets. These people include 'Doggie' played by Tony Leung chiu wai, who takes a fish market hostage at knifepoint until being taking in by the social worker through the use of a Jackie Chan puppet (actually pretty touching sequence.
Chow Yun Fat plays a crazy man who buries his son alive after he contracts hepititis. Chow plays the scene with such flair, his eye movements and motions are so realistic, too bad his part was underwritten. The last person is a 'normal' man who goes into a bout of craziness once again, biting the heads off chickens,and taking a kindergarten school hostage (a particularly frightening sequence), untill being brought down. All of this leads to a tragic ending, as the reporter takes over the workers status (i'm not giving anything away, it even says that on the back of the DVD box!).

Overall this film would have been good if given a few more drafts. Thecharacters are so good, but they are given such little screen time and aren't given
enough room for a complete story (the running time on this film is 88 min. i think,
it needed at least 2 hrs.). Another thing was how this movie portrayed itself, it
tried so hard to make it's derelict characters SO unappealing! instead of being an
insightful look, it was just treated as a horror film, especially the trailer! overall, a
good try, but not good enough!

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Chow is one of the lunatics in this part social drama, part horrorfilm.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]