Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) – 7/10 action detective mystery movie review

Cast / crew
Director and Producer: Tsui Hark
Producer: Wang Zhongjun
Producer: Wang Zhonglei
Detective Dee Renjie: Andy Lau
Bingbing Li: Shangguan Jing’er
Carina Lau: Wu Zefan (The Empress)
Deng Chao: Pei Donglai
Tony Leung Ka Fai: Shatuo Zhong
Action Director: Sammo Hung

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

As the coronation of the first female Emperor of China approaches and a 218-foot tall statue of Buddha erected in her honour is nearing completion, the foreman dies after moving a couple of ceremonial banners. The manner of his death confirms supernatural intervention: he is consumed by fire from within. In the face of such a mystery, the Empress calls on the services of Detective Dee who had been sent to prison eight years earlier… for partaking in an attempted revolution against her.


Tremendously entertaining if not exactly coherent (a Tsui Hark trademark) fantasy detective thriller with action sequences impressively and imaginatively unconstrained by physical limitations. I’m always impressed by the ability to construct fight and action sequences that clearly are not possible but remain convincing. It’s a wonderful leap of imagination to think them up and a spectacular logistical challenge to make them appear effortless and natural on screen (scores of intricately manipulated wires for this particular movie). It’s a talent that the Chinese action choreographers (Sammo Hung here) have developed most assuredly and the results are very cool.

This movie contains mild adult dialogue, Mild nudity and mild sexuality, Fantasy martial arts violence, extremely unpleasant scenes

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.


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