Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

There is no doubt that Andy Lau is a great actor, I have enjoyed watching him since the 90’s and will continue to enjoy watching him until the only roles he can get are as wise old masters or aging gangsters.  It is true that he plays his characters in a similar style, and Detective Dee is no different, but it works and it is enjoyable!  There is a reason he has been popular for over twenty years.  Now let us add to this mix one of my favourite directors Tsui Hark who can create a feeling of magic and adventure in almost all his films.  Just those two elements and you have the makings of a great adventure and that is what Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is.  Based on the novel by Lin Qianyu, Detective Dee is a very enjoyable film to watch.

from left to right Deng Chao as Pei Donglai and Li Bingbing as Shangguan Jing'er

from left to right Deng Chao as Pei Donglai and Li Bingbing as Shangguan Jing’er

As the film is not a monologue we have veteran actors Carina Lau and Tony Leung Ka-Fai and younger stars Li Bing-Bing and Deng Chao who play members of the imperial court assisting/spying on Detective Dee. I really have no complaints about the acting as they all did great for an adventure film like Detective Dee.  The action was fun to watch but typical for modern day wuxia, lots of cgi and wires but the film is not meant to be a martial arts film but an adventure.  Even then I wasn’t put off the movie by it, as I said it was fun to watch. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as the legendary Sammo Hung was the action director for the movie. The premise of the film is Dee is in prison for attempting a revolt against the empress eight years previous to the events of the movie.  When mysterious murders of people burning from the inside out start happening the Imperial Abbot suggests Detective Dee be released and assigned the case.  The Empress releases Dee but assigns Pei Donglai and Shangguan Jing’er to not only assist Dee but to keep an eye on him as well.

Andy Lau Tak-Wah as Detective Dee/Di Renjie

Andy Lau Tak-Wah as Detective Dee/Di Renjie

The cinematography was pleasant to look at and certainly added a richness to the story.  The sets, costumes and general production values were of the best quality and the movie score was also well done.  All of this helped weave the story and immerse the audience into tale being told.  If you enjoy adventure films such as Indiana Jones then you can’t go wrong watching Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

Andy Lau (Moon Warriors, Handsome Siblings, The Three Swordsmen, The Duel, Infernal Affairs, House of Flying Daggers) as Detective Dee

Carina Lau as (Armour of God, The Eagle Shooting Heroes, Deadful Melody, Infernal Affairs 2 & 3, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon) Empress Wu Zetian

Li Bingbing (Seventeen Years, Eight Heroes, The Forbidden Kingdom) as Shangguan Jing’er

Deng Chao (The Four, The Founding of a Republic) as Pei Donglai

Tony Leung Ka-fai (Dragon Inn, Once Upon a Time a Hero in China, Ashes of Time, The Twins Effect II, Bodyguards and Assassins) as Shatuo

Richard Ng Yiu-Hon (Golden Swallow, Magnificent Warriors, Handsome Siblings, Once Upon a Time in China and America) as Donkey Wang


Love HKFilm review

Roger Ebert review

NYTimes review



6 thoughts on “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

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