First of all, the title is misleading. Dee, the Chinese syllable in question, is more psychotic than psychedelic, in that the latter term refers explicitly to drug use and throughout the movie the cop is clean as a licked badge when he’s not drunk. That three identities dwell unknown to each other within him makes him both, however. Simultaneity, the symbolic fluidity of identity: these are concepts experienced most fully as revelations while under the influence of drugs, I’d argue. I’d perhaps struggle hopelessly to back up my argument with something other than a desperately warm smile and a vague anecdote, but nonetheless I’d try to do it, and the truth forced me into another humiliating situation involving the flailing of the ego, I’d grimace and accept it. On the other hand, there’s nothing about a clumsy time lapse and a CGI miscarriage that are inherently psychedelic. The cop’s goofy lil’ buddy forces you out of a drug revery pretty swiftly. A sad situation; realizing you are choosing not to laugh. A forced laugh is still a laugh. Let us hear them ring.
The three identities which are locked in a sweaty grapple within Dee’s agonized and emotionless physical frame are that of a cop, a gangster, and a violent ninja in a rain slicker thirsting for human blood (the ignominious “Killer in Mask”). The cop has the upper hand outwardly, in that Dee looks like a cop- the skin is so tightly wrapped around his head that one can’t help but envision the pulsing half cock with jesus beard pubes his whole being keeps so far buried in his stiff body that his tight lips can say it never existed. Dee’s face glimmers with perspiration under the blue neon lights of DRINK BAR where he spends most of his time, pretending to be a Triad member. How can anyone take him seriously? The lil buddy, White Board, sees right through this sad sack right off the bat. “I want to see serious change in the Triad. I’m voting Dee for Triad leadership!” So Dee is a representative again, of White Board’s childish wishes, “toughness” “justice” things like that. Dee can only grimace and pretend like he’s pretending not to care, because who is Dee anyway? A ripped body and a face, taut or slack.
White Board idolizes Dee, he wants to be in the Triad so he can say I’m in the Triad. Dee denigrates this ambition, but only because he is a reactionary, not because he has sussed out the truth or he is aware of any danger arising from the situation. Why does Dee want to be in the Triad? Because he is a cop. Why do I want what I want? Because I am not I. Dee has a hard time ahead of him. Both these buddies sacrifice their identities at the alter of an idea. The resulting acting is manic on the part of White Board and wooden of Dee. From the abscessed seed sprout two roots.
At a massage parlor, Dee catches sight of a pretty woman. His blank look causes the woman, BB, to shout “Haven’t you ever seen a pretty woman before?” He sulks off, but they meet later at the drink bar, where Dee proves his lack of humanity by stopping a broken bottle thrust with his hand. BB is attracted to this act of spastic reflex, and is drawn to the powerful vacancy within, like a nug through the vacuum. A scene of her lovingly applying a puffy white thing to his slashed wrist follows. This act of tenderness sickens Dee. The violence within him is deep, so must the cuts and the fucking be. He only becomes aroused after BB physically assaults him for being such a dick and shooting wine at her when she caught on fire. After a particularly awkward sex scene in which Dee keeps his shoulders very stiff (the imagined crotch thrust in this context becomes garishly vivid) and his neck craned toward the pillow, the couple mellows out a little bit. Dee makes a tall toy ninja hold his cigarette. BB looks through a hole in the newspaper at Dee. Both chortle. These activities are placeholders for real interaction, of which Dee, at least, is incapable.
Dee’s experiences as a cop are defined by his comprehensibly strained interactions with his lieutenant. The two meet at a brightly graffitied corporate drainhole where they fish for shrimp (“Fishing for shrimp is boring!” the lieutenant repeatedly complains) in the chlorinated water. Each has different motives for their presence at this erstwhile hiding spot. Dee wants to be told that he is a cop, he also wants to know what this means. The lieutenant wants to thoroughly assert his power over his underling. “You’re a cop, you don’t have a choice”, he lectures. His smug grin, his complaints and his directives all allude to the fact the Lieutenant is a real cop and Dee the pretender casting aspersions toward badge. Dee the Triad member becomes the subject of the real cop’s interrogation, and Dee the cop disappears at the moment when the context suggests he should be present the most. His tough, expressionless face is concerning more than it is concerned.
Meanwhile, at the clandestine spots where the Triad meets to tape suspected snitches heads up before the violent pipe smashing, Dee lurks in the shadows, cowering from his perceived identity. He succeeds remarkably well amidst all the bowing and scraping before the fat Triad boss, who takes the burden of personality upon his irate shoulders for the sake of the entire organization. The bland shells (who are unceremoniously butchered by their own flaccid penises grown into one, hard in the mirror, the faceless, slow moving reflection – Killer in Mask) pay their tribute for this selfless shouldering of a social unit’s shameful burden by mentioning the Boss’s name in nearly every sentence. “Oh Boss says who’s the cop?” “Boss wants you to play fair” “Boss needs a nine iron” etc. The boss, fat, dissatisfied, looks responsibly on. Dee, used to this type of total capitulation before the voice that can make a sound, has no trouble resembling the weak pawns in his company. Towards what end is not clear. Dee is silent and muddled in the arms of the Boss, waiting for time to elapse.
Dee’s third identity, the hollow gestalt Killer in Mask, erupts compulsively from a hole in Dee’s eye burned in by the swirling blue light of an ambulance. When Dee was a child, a vague traumatic event involving the death of his peanut throwing father sealed the Killer in Mask within him, only to be released when the exact visual conditions of the trauma are replicated. The Killer in Mask is a lump of poison molded by arthritic hands into a symbol for action in a static world. The news is all over him, his awkward name is on everybody’s lips. “Who is this person who is nobody and why is he?” is all they can think. Because the cops can do nothing other than be cops and the Triad can do nothing other than defer to the Boss’s diminishingly meaningful wishes, attention swarms around the Killer in Mask, whose uncertain identity allows for just the possibility of change. But the unconscious butcher is careless with this possibility; his fidelity is to the poorly repressed violence that represents the possibility of his own existence. The flashing ambulance light that sends Dee into the trance that is itself an invocation of indiscriminate death does so only by means of the manner in which it recurs. The reproduced moment asserts the fixity that is only suggested by the police force and the Triad. Change becomes impossible; people who are not characters die.
At first the Killer in Mask spares White Board and BB, this is only because they, still being uncertain as to who the Killer is, maintain the possibility of shift within him (and consequently within Dee, without whom the relationships which pin PSYCHEDELIC COP together would not exist). But in his mercy he betrays himself- choice never existed, only death. White Board and BB both find the ninja mask that Dee has left unhidden in his trunk. It`s a death wish which impels them to beg him to put it on, to extort him to re-enact the sequence in which they were left alive by the Killer in Mask. BB is unabashedly turned on by the idea of the Killer, to the extent that the narration suggests that she is in love with two men. The moment she realizes that both these men are the same is the moment all the characters in the movie are obliterated.
When White Board demands that Dee put on the mask and point a knife at his forehead nothing happens. The sequences in which the Killer in Mask emerges are marked by a drastic change in the visual style and temporal aesthetics of the movie. The set is cast into a deep TV screen blue glow and double exposures, slow cross dissolves and strange bellows from offscreen demarcate a realm of grim slaughter quite apart from the sallow caresses and terse chortling that reverberates elsewhere. White Board and BB both need to recreate this poisonous atmosphere very specifically in order to feel alive. Thus it’s just Dee goofin with a ninja mask until he gives the precise bugged out look with his eyes and transforms into a living memory of a real experience.
That’s what White Board is looking for, not just the identity of the Killer but death experienced twice over, as a threat and, in repetition, as a fact. BB too wants this – when she demands that Dee brush into her shoulder repeatedly, just as the Killer in Mask did, she gets frustrated because there is too much both of Dee’s familiarity and of the orange kitchen light in the action, and not enough doom.
It soon becomes obvious both to the Police force and the Triad that the Killer in Mask must be Dee. With the ambiguity of identity gone, the last threshold of possibility is breached and there is nothing left for the characters to do but die whimpering in the street. In the climax, the Killer in Mask emerges without his mask. The massacre is pitiful, the three identities merged into one berserk Dee (“going nut” as one newspaper reporter puts it). In his mechanistic rage he stabs White Board through the heart without a flinch of remorse. BB is shot by the pigs, and Dee for a moment snaps out of his rage. He carries her to the top floor of an apartment building. BB begs him to commit suicide. The cops try to talk him down, knowing that in submission and control there remains a possibility for existence, if only for the imagined form at the top of the pyramid. But for Dee this possibility is precluded by the fact that, in the unification of his identities, he is no longer clearly a cop. Instead of listening he looks down into BB’s eyes and experiences every scene they shared together in nostalgic total recall. Once again, repetition and certainty are synonymous with death; Dee, crying, clutching BB’s bleeding corpse answers her plea. “Don’t part from me for a day” she gags. “I’ve never had a choice” he answers, and jumps to the pavement. He’s right; the moment he`’ able to say “I” honestly he no longer has a choice.
In the denouement a reporter, White Board’s duplicitous girlfriend, takes credit for the story. Bringing a copy of the movie’s script to Dee’s grave she burns it and sheds a tear. “It’s sad” she explains. The final shot is of the script burning, a reflexive sequence that turns a frown toward the audience and a grimace toward the process of representation itself. Oh the sad sad days of trying!