Movie Review: DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME

MovieReview by Joey Paur

There are so many films that get made that we never really hear of do to the fact that they get drowned out by the big boys. Then there are a ton of foreign films that many of us don’t hear about until Hollywood announces that they are remaking it. It really is a shame that we don’t hear about a lot of these non-Hollywood underground films. I try to keep up the best I can on the indie film foreign circuit, I’m only one man and I can only do so much.  

This brings us to a movie I recently saw at the Los Angeles Film Festival, a wonderfully epic martial arts film called Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Fact: I love watching martial arts films especially when they have a good solid story to go along with the kick-ass fight sequences. This film falls into that category, it has an interesting story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, with great likable characters. The film locks you in pretty quick, with it’s epic scale, and I think it’s safe to say that when you see someone spontaneously combust, your interest level should power up. From there on out the movie plays out in the most fun and unexpected ways, taking you deep into a mystical world full of mind-bending twists and turns. 

The story follows a series of mysterious fiery deaths surrounding the inauguration of Empress Wu Zetian, who summons a character named Detective Dee (Andy Lau), after serving eight years in exile. With the help of the beautiful and deadly Jing’er (Bingbing Li) and an albino imperial guard, with mad fighting skills, Pei (Chao Deng), Dee sets out to crack the case, and a few skulls along the way. The film is a fictional account of a real life imperial court judge named Di Renjie, who lived during the Tang dynasty in 690 A.D. In the 1950’s a series of detective novels were written about the character by Robert Van Gulik. I guess you could say this is the Asain version of Sherlock Holmes, only I thought this film was much better.

Director Hark Tsui has created one hell of a visually stunning movie with massive settings. In terms of the films tone, it actually reminded me a little bit of The Lord of the Rings. The film also has a good amount of humor to help lighten up the mood. The fight choreography was simply amazing, most of the stuff in the film really blew me away. I love when martial arts films get inventive with kicking ass, and this movie excels at that. The fight sequences are beautifully breathtaking. 

This is one of those films that begs to be seen up on the big screen. It's definitely not your typical Hollywood film, and that my friends is a good thing. I suggest you check this movie out when you get a chance, there's no doubt you'll enjoy it, espacially if you are into martial arts films.

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