Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame


Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 54


Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,791
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Movie Info

A period epic from genre master Tsui Hark, Detective Dee is an action-packed, visually breathtaking Sherlock Holmes-style mystery starring some of China's top acting talent. Stunningly choreographed by master Sammo Hung, this intricately plotted whodunit is set in an exquisitely realized steampunk version of ancient China. On the eve of her coronation as Empress (Carina Lau), China's most powerful woman is haunted by a chilling murder mystery: seven men under her command have burst into flames, leaving behind only black ash and skeletal bones. Recognizing this threat to her power, she turns to the infamous Dee Renjie (Andy Lau): a man whose unparalleled wisdom is matched only by his martial arts skills. As he battles a series of bizarre dangers, he unveils a chilling truth that places his life, and the future of an entire dynasty, in peril. -- (C) Indomina

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Andy Lau
as Detective Dee (Di Renjie)
Carina Lau
as Wu Zetian (The Empress)
Bingbing Li
as Shangguan Jing'er
Tony Leung Ka Fai
as Shatuo Zhong
Chao Deng
as Pei Donglai
Jean-Michel Casanova
as General Aspar
Teddy Robin Kwan
as Wang Lu (after face-lift)
Richard Ng
as Wang Lu (before face-lift)
Yao Lu
as Li Xiao (The Duke)
Jinshan Liu
as Xue Yong (Crime Inspector)
as Umayyad Ambassador
Sos Haroyan
as Asst. to Umayyad Ambassador
Zhao Jialin
as Interpreter
Qin Yan
as Jia Yi (Construction Inspector)
Wang Deshun
as Xiazi Ling (Blind Prisoner)
He Shenming
as Prison Officer
Jiang Yanming
as Undertaker
Huang Yonggang
as Zhang Xun
Chen Xiao
as Lu Li
Foo Liz Veronica
as Wife of Jia Yi
Veronica Faye Foo
as Wife of Jia Yi
Xu Nan
as Chamberlain
Chai Jin
as Qiu Shenji
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Critic Reviews for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (24) | Fresh (43) | Rotten (11)

  • Detective Dee brings back the excitement of great pop cinema that drew cinephiles to Hong Kong in the first place.

    Mar 5, 2018 | Full Review…
  • It is a peculiar conflation of history -- there really was an Empress Wu -- and pure cinematic fantasy.

    Sep 29, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • By the end, with the running time pushing past the two-hour mark, it's reasonable to ask: Just who are these people?

    Sep 26, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • Detective Dee is the action flick of the year, a two-hour epic that blows the Pirates of the Caribbean to the Bermuda Triangle.

    Sep 23, 2011 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • "Dee" doesn't shoot for the gravitas of Zhang Yimou's "Hero." It doesn't approach that film's magnificent sensory impact, either, or the artistic romanticism that made "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" such a success here.

    Sep 23, 2011 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Three decades into his career, Tsui Hark stands as one of the movies' great entertainers, displaying a dancer's sense of rhythm and movement and manipulating physical space with an abandon worthy of Chuck Jones.

    Sep 22, 2011 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

  • Feb 06, 2013
    While guiding a foreign ambassador(Jean-Michel Casanova) through a giant Buddha that everybody hopes is finished in time for Empress Wu Zetian's(Carina Lau) coronation in 689 AD, Xue(Jinshan Liu) spontaneously bursts into flames. The same thing then happens to Jia(Yan Qin) when he and Pei Donglai(Chao Deng) of the Supreme Court report back to the empress with the news. With the food tasters, including the empress' favorite Shangguan Jing'er(Li Bing Bing), working overtime, the court chaplain says there is only one person for the job: Detective Dee(Andy Lau). The bad news is that he was convicted of treason for opposing the empress' regency. The good news is that he is still alive and kicking, literally so, in fighting a band of assassins. Directed and produced by Tsui Hark, "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" is an entertaining blend of history(there actually was an Empress Wu Zetian), mystery, intrigue, action and fantasy set in changing times with a resolution that makes a good deal of sense. All of which is in the service of introducing a hero for the ages. While some might say the movie's overall philosophy is kind of like having and eating your cake, too, it also shows that the world is not as simple as first thought, with a couple of relevant comments on the present day, like a neat anti-torture statement. So, while the movie looks great in detailing a past world, it is ironic that its weak point comes in its fight scenes. That has less to do with Sammo Hung, the legendary fight arranger, than with how poorly they are edited and that we are well past the point when we could be amazed by flying martial arts.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 04, 2013
    An acceptable mystery adventure film with poorly executed action sequences but entertaining.
    Rodrigo R Super Reviewer
  • Dec 29, 2012
    A wonderful martial arts adventure that keeps a fun and engaging pace. Detective Dee is released from prison in order to help solve a series of spontaneous combustions. He's pretty much the Chinese Sherlock Holmes, but the film does mix fantasy elements as well. Detective Dee is joined by a series of interesting sidekicks, such as the albino member of the supreme court, Pei, and Jing'er a delegate of the Empress. The film has a fantastic ability to conflict characters with their own actions, showing a distinct line between responsibility and choice. The sets and landscapes were breathtaking at times, especially the gigantic statue of Buddha. The film does it all with great adventure sequences, and even has an impressive fight with some CGI deer.
    Luke B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 25, 2012
    I didn't like this film that much. I just thought the approach to its action and story was really quite goofy and silly. The problem with the action is that, to me, it simply wasn't well shot/edited together. Sometimes you have no idea what the hell is going on with these scenes and most of putting together a good action scene is how you edit it together. Not to mention that this film breaks all the laws of physics. Which isn't really a problem, since countless other films do this but there's something about the action in this film that isn't as graceful as some of the other, more famous, films featuring extensive wiring work. There's something sloppy about it all quite frankly. And I think Sammo Hung does a great job at choreographing fight scenes (see both Ip Man movies for an example of his great work), so I have no idea what the problem was here. I do think the movie, as it nears the end, does start to find its focus and the action scenes do start to get better. Also having actors who didn't have any martial arts training may have hurt them in the long run. The story is, as mentioned, goofy. The reason the villain had for doing what he did was so ridiculous it actually did hurt the film, to me. I think the concept is intriguing enough, but the execution of that concept left a lot to be desired. Again, I point to its goofiness as a detriment. But the film still isn't really that bad though, it just misses the mark on what should've been really focusing on. Telling an intriguing story with some great action. As it stands, we got none of the two. But at the same time I'd say it was an average movie at best. So there is something to work with here, it's just drowned out by the story being silly and the action being poorly edited. I really wouldn't recommend this film unless you must watch every Andy Lau movie ever, in that case then go right ahead.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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