Chinese always was famous by their Great Wall, but in Detective Dee Mystery of the Phantom Flame they are building a Towering Buddha, where two high-ranking court officials mysteriously died of spontaneous combustion after being exposed to sunlight.
Empress Wu, the first and only female emperor in Chinese history, decides to set free of prisoner Dee, who once an imperial court judge before sentenced for eight years in the jail following from his rebellion. Together with Pei Donglai and Wu’s beloved protege, Shangguan Jing’er, they must race against time to nab the murderer as well as uncover the hidden agenda behind the possible rebellion against the crowning of the very first female emperor in China.
This epic Chinese period crime-thriller definitely took my attention from the first minutes. I like detectives but at the first time I was watching Chinese detective story and so well-made from one of the most famous asian directors Tsui Hark. He has increasingly lost his creative touch after martial arts movies of 90s Knock Off and Double Team with Jean Claude van Damme, he tried to make something worth watching with the best martial artists Donnie Yen in wuxia film Qi jian in 2005, but it didn’t work. And finally in 2010 he made a true comeback and returns with Di Renjie, internationally known as Detective Dee Movie.
It was a funny episode with a talking Chaplain’s Magic Deer, some kind of grown Bamby, from which Empress Wu takes advices.
Andy Lau looks like overgrown and dirty vargant but in few minutes became a charismatic titular hero, one of the most celebrated officials of the Tang Dynasty.
I was very glad to see Richard Ng as Donkey Wang, amazing comedy actor best known for Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars martial arts movie with Jackie Chan.
The highlight of Sammo Hung‘s unique wire-fu choreography is the elaborate fight scene in the Phantom Bazaar against the shape-shifting, red-cloaked Chaplain and a band of masked assassins. You will be impressed with logs scenes. Aside from the usual gravity-defying fight sequence, each respective characters have their own fighting style. Without doubt Hung is the best creative fight choreographer of martial arts movies of nowadays and this scene will go in his highlights collection as well as round table fight in Ip Man 2.
Sammo admires Tsui Hark greatly and postpone his own martial arts movie to choreograph action scenes in the Detective Dee.
Summarizing, I can say that I enjoyed this martial arts movie a lot and it reminded me hong kong historical action Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee and another beautiful wuxia movie House of Flying Daggers (Shi mian mai fu) in 2004 by Yimou Zhang. By the way the last work of Michelle Yeoh is not of my favourites, why?, read review on Reign of Assassins Movie … or and True Legend Movie I did not like too.
With a $13 million budget Tsui Hark created a fantastic world in Detective Dee Movie, managed to make everything as tightly-paced and compulsively watchable without missing a beat.