The Lunatics (1986)

Directed by
quite an angry movie
Reviewed by Simon on 2003-02-24

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 because of the silly hat that Little Tony 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 though.

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.