Quick Movie Review: Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame (2010)

detective dee and the mystery of the phantom flame Hi gang, sorry about the lack of posts lately. If you know me or follow my exploits over on PopPoppa.com you’ll know that we welcomed our son Jack into the world about 7 weeks early a few weeks back. He’s home from the NICU and hanging with us now, so I’m going to slowly get back into some pop culture blogging here on UM.

This is usually the part of the post where I regale you with a tale of how I came to watch this particular film, but there isn’t one this time around. I don’t think I’ve even heard anything about Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame but I saw it on Netflix Instant and figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m really glad I did because it was a really fun mystery with (mostly) solid CGI, slick fight scenes and a historical setting I wasn’t super familiar with. It’s actually kind of funny that I enjoyed this movie because, historically speaking, I’m not a fan of period piece martial arts films or the wire fu type stunts going back to when I first saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

But, this film has a Spielbergian feel to it that surpasses infuses everything. You can chalk that up to director Hark Tsui’s direction but also Sammo Hung’s stunt design and Andy Lau’s performance as the title character who comes off as a much more likable Sherlock Holmes who can kick your ass if he wants to (but doesn’t).

The plot is actually fairly simple, the first ever Empress is about to go through her coronation. To coincide with the event, a huge Buddha statue is being built nearby. But, some of the people involved start going up in flames. Unable to figure out what’s going on, the Empress allows for Detective Dee to come out of prison (where he was charged with treason after opposing the Empress several years back) to solve the case. He’s helped and hindered by a few other government employees and goes on a journey to discover the truth as a whole lot of people do their best to stop him. I didn’t see the end reveal coming and enjoyed going on the strange journey that Dee went on, so all in all it was a fun experience. Add in some equally entertaining fight scenes (though Dee more so uses his speed and skill to dodge and block blows than actually throw down) and I was in all around. Plus, there’s a talking deer and a character called Donkey Wang, so those are pluses.

I found myself pleasantly engaged with the film as it progressed and didn’t even mind reading the subtitles on Netflix. I will say that if you can watch a dubbed version you might want to because so much is going on in the film that, like me, you might miss a few pieces because your eyes are focused on the bottom of the screen. Meanwhile, the feel of the movie reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones mixed with Dragon and even some The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec thrown in. Anything that taps into that adventure-filled feeling I had as a kid watching Raiders is aces in my book, so I’m definitely going to check out the prequel in the not too distant future!

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