HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Wild Strawberries
Runner, The
Don't Look Up
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Eternals
Forever Purge, The
Memoria
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Legend of La Llorona, The
Japon
Glasshouse
Perdita Durango
Commando, The
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Boiling Point
Malignant
Deadly Games
Ailey
Voyeurs, The
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
In the Earth
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hotel Poseidon
Zola
No Time to Die
Klaus
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Candyman
Power of the Dog, The
StageFright
Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary
Suicide Squad, The
One Night in Miami...
Old
Prince of Nothingwood, The
Gagarine
Mr. Jones
Enfants Terribles, Les
Slumber Party Massacre
Bones, The
   
 
Newest Articles
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
   
 
  Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Kung Fu Sherlock
Year: 2010
Director: Tsui Hark
Stars: Andy Lau, Li Bing-Bing, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Deng Chiao, Carina Lau, Richard Ng, Teddy Robin Kwan, Liu Jin-Shan, Yao Lu, Huang Yong-Gang, Chun Hyn, Zhao Jia-Lin, Chen Xiao
Genre: Martial Arts, Historical, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: In 7th century China an enormous Buddha statue is being erected in honour of the first female ruler, Empress Wu (Carina Lau). Whilst showing foreign dignitaries around the site, the project supervisor suddenly bursts into flame, burning to death before their astonished eyes. Timid construction worker Shatuo Zhong (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) believes the killing is divine retribution for the removal of two sacred amulets from the statue. His theory is seemingly borne out when an investigating official becomes the next fiery casualty. On the advice of the mystical Chaplain Lo Li, who manifests in the form of a talking deer, Empress Wu summons China's greatest sleuth: Detective Dee (Andy Lau), who was imprisoned after opposing her succession to the throne. Feisty, whip-wielding handmaiden Shangguan Jing'er (Li Bing-Bing) springs Dee from jail, but alongside hot-tempered albino officer Pei Donglai (Deng Chiao) continues to spy on the detective as he pits his wits against the mystery of the phantom flame.

Written in the 18th century by an unknown Chinese author, "The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee" was a fictional work inspired by the exploits of Di Renjie, a real-life magistrate during the Tang Dynasty. It was Robert van Gulik, a Dutch writer, diplomat and orientalist who translated the text for a European audience. He went on to pen seventeen other Detective Dee mysteries from 1946 to 1967 and today the series continues under French author Frederic Lenormand. Now Detective Dee has made it to the big screen. After dabbling in low-key ghost stories (Missing (2008)) and zany romantic comedy (All About Women (2008)), Tsui Hark returns to the kind of eye-popping spectacle that made his name, only with a faintly revisionist edge akin to Guy Ritchie’s recent re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes.

Instead of the portly, elderly Di Renjie familiar from the novels, Hark casts the virile and charismatic Andy Lau whose exuberant detective shares a flair for deductive reasoning and a strong moral code in common with Holmes. His occasionally antagonistic relationships with Jing'er, Donglai and the morally ambiguous Empress are nicely drawn while Hark retains his capacity for surprises. We expect the ruthless Donglai to be a villain, but he proves instead a most stalwart ally while Jing'er harbours a startling secret reminiscent of an earlier Hark classic: Swordsman II: Invincible Asia (1992). It is among several self-referential aspects about the film, another example being a villain who appears as a crimson phantom made of fabric able to split into many parts, which recalls the animated red blanket from Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983).

Being a Mainland co-production, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame endows Hark with vast resources he never had before, including lavish and fascinating reconstructions of life at the imperial court interwoven midst the labyrinthine plot. Hark does not sugarcoat the darker aspects of Empress Wu (subject of a lavish biopic by Shaw Brothers' auteur Li Han-hsiang in 1963) and draws attention to her paranoia and manipulative nature. Indeed he smuggles a surprising amount of subversive statements about oppressive regimes, the need for political reform and the citizens duty to question corrupt authority, that somehow snuck past the Mainland censor. Now that mainstream cinema so blatantly apes his frenetic style, Hark has slowed down, allowing the intricacies of the mystery to seep through but still laces the film with surreal imagery and offbeat ideas. Notably the casting of comedian Richard Ng and Cantopop star-turned-actor and director Teddy Robin Kwan as the same character: hunchbacked physician Donkey Wang, able to alter his appearance by means of acupuncture. The action, choreographed by the great Sammo Hung is hyperkinetic and visual without the overly stylised CGI of recent years, leaving the award-winning special effects to serve as the icing on an already sumptuous cake. Andy Lau is his usually engaging self while Li Bing-Bing and the award-winning Carina Lau uphold Hark's tradition of strong, complex female characters.


Click here for the trailer


Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 4333 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Tsui Hark  (1950 - )

Hong Kong director, producer, writer and actor and one of the most important figures in modern Hong Kong cinema. Hark majored in film in the US, before returning to his homeland to work in television. Made his directing debut in 1979 with the horror thriller The Butterfly Murders, while 1983's Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain was a spectacular ghost fantasy quite unlike anything in HK cinema at the time. Other key films of this period include Shanghai Blues and the brilliant Peking Opera Blues.

Hark established the Film Workshop production house in 1984, and was responsible for producing such groundbreaking films as John Woo's action classics The Killer and A Better Tomorrow, Ching Siu-Tung's A Chinese Ghost Story and New Dragon Gate Inn, and Yuen Woo-Ping's Iron Monkey. In 1991 Hark revitalised the period martial arts genre and launched the career of Jet Li by directing the hugely successful Once Upon a Time in China, which was followed by several sequels.

Like many Hong Kong directors, Hark gave Hollywood a go in the late nineties and directed Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Team and Knock Off. He returned home soon after to continue directing and producing movies like Time and Tide, the epic effects-fest Legend of Zu and romantic adventure Seven Swords.

 
Review Comments (1)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: