THE LUNATICS is a film from Hong Kong that is neither a kung fu extravaganza nor a drippy love story. In fact it is a well-made, consciousness-raising film whose theme is frequently overlooked in the movies: mental illness.
Fung Shui Fan plays a social worker whose job it is to check on outpatients across the city. As the film opens, one such patient has walked into a small market, creating mass hysteria by wandering about with a meat cleaver. Fung arrives on the scene, gently coaxes the weapon from the man, and
takes him back to his home. In covering the incident, reporter Deanie Yip charges the health system with encouraging such potentially dangerous occurrences. Fung invites Yip to accompany him on his rounds in order to help her gain a better understanding of his job and the people he treats.
Traveling across the city, the reporter is introduced to a number of eccentric, apparently harmless people who shy away from strangers. There is an old woman with an amazing collection of what would be considered trash and a man living in a garbage dump, where he attempts to care for a child. The
child is in desperate need of medical care, but the man is afraid of losing her if he draws attention to the circumstances under which they are living. The persistent social worker sees that the child receives proper attention and thus saves her life. Another man whom Fung and Yip visit is a
seemingly well-adjusted man who suffered a breakdown shortly after being married. When he has a run-in with his former wife while visiting his son, she threatens to refuse him visitation rights. The confrontation sends him into a rage, and he locks himself inside his apartment, killing chickens.
Aware of his condition, his neighbors attempt to restrain him; but he breaks away, wounds several people, and then barricades himself in his son's kindergarten, killing one teacher before Fung arrives on the scene. Fung's only recourse is to kill the man. Soon afterward, the man he aided in the
market at the beginning of the film repeats the same ritual. A reporter snaps a picture, frightening the knife-wielding man, who then fatally wounds Fung. The end of the film shows reporter Yip taking up the work of Fung.
Despite its unusual theme, THE LUNATICS has become one of the most commercially successful films of all time in Hong Kong. This can possibly be attributed to the controversy created by the publicity campaign and the subsequent criticism of the film by social workers fearful that people would think
Hong Kong was filled with insane, potentially dangerous people. The film had its origins in an actual event perpetrated by a one-time mental patient, an incident similar to the one portrayed in the kindergarten scene of the film. Several of the actors portraying mental patients were Hong Kong
matinee idols who risked tainting their images through their involvement in the project. As a whole THE LUNATICS is a well-made film; its only drawback is its tendency to sentimentalize events, specifically the relationship between Yip and Fung. Otherwise, the film is devastatingly brutal in its
depiction of eccentric individuals, who quickly win audience empathy before the climactic bloodbath occurs.
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- Released: 1986
- Rating: NR
- Review: THE LUNATICS is a film from Hong Kong that is neither a kung fu extravaganza nor a drippy love story. In fact it is a well-made, consciousness-raising film whose theme is frequently overlooked in the movies: mental illness. Fung Shui Fan plays a social wo… (more)