There hasn't been a good private eye film in ages, and it seems like there hasn't been a good film from the Pang Brothers in even longer, but 2007's The Detective addresses both missing items very satisfyingly indeed. Aaron Kwok is the likeable C+ grade private detective in Thailand who's not overburdened with smarts or cases until a butcher he met in a bar hires him to find a woman who's following him and wants to kill him. Naturally there's more to the case than meets the eye as various people in a charred photograph all start to meet their deaths, either at their own hands or those of a killer, and just as naturally the police, in the form of his childhood friend Liu Kai Chi, think there's no case to pursue. It's a thoroughly engaging thriller that throws in some neat out-of-leftfield surprises involving elephants and refrigerators that it's well worth avoiding the film's spoiler-heavy trailers to preserve, and the quite excellent Kwok and Liu Kai Chi have real screen chemistry together as the kind of friends who seem to tolerate each other as much as they genuinely like each other. With Oxide Pang directing solo (though Thomas Pang co-wrote the screenplay), it benefits greatly from the style being allied to a strong story with good characters and - again if you can avoid the synopsis, which hints at it too heavily - there's a real frisson to the final revelation of just how and why Kwok was led to the victims as well as a bit more emotional weight than you'd expect at the end. It's so good that it's a pity the 2011 sequel, that sees Kwok elevated to a B+ detective, is widely reported to have been a major disappointment that rehashes the original to considerably less effect.
Terracotta's UK PAL DVD offers a good 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, though the limitations of the original's use of natural light in some scenes leads to a few very dark scenes evening daytime, but has a decent extras package - brief making of featurette, premiere footage, trailers, stills gallery and introduction by Oxide Pang.