Movie Review Detective Dee

Text by Loong Wai Ting

IT’S been a while since director Tsui Hark has come up with something that truly satisfies the crowd. Hark, who was once the most-sought after director, especially in the early nineties, seemed to be facing a dip in his career recently with his cheesy film, The Legend of Zu. His last satisfactory film was Time and Tide, starring Nicholas Tse and Wu Bai.

While his recent effort in Seven Swords was seen as something unimaginative, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame on the other hand marked Hark’s return to the cinematic world –and he’s back for good.

In Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, Andy Lau stars as Detective Dee, a former imperial police officer, who was jailed for treason when he opposed the rise of China’s first and only female Emperor to the throne. When court officials died a sudden mysterious death, Empress Wu (Carina Lau) is forced to summon Detective Dee back from exile to investigate the matter.

Though the first hour of Detective Dee is seen as over-cluttered with its confusing plot, it is nonetheless, a fun movie to catch especially if you’re missing movies of the same genre.

Remember how we used to crowd around the television during Chinese New Year to watch flying swordsmen slaying demons and the evil characters?

Well, suffice to say the story is built around the sudden human combustion that defies every logical explanation. The plot feels as if there are two different ideas thrown in, and as a result, a lot of the sub plot remains choppy and under-developed.

The movie features a lot of tight fighting scenes, all thanks to their action director, Sammo Hung. The wirework seems flawless and real and the action scenes are done almost effortlessly. The CGI effects in Detective Dee might come off as offensive for some, but if you don’t mind cheesy effects, then give this movie a go. Some are good, some not that good – but it all goes quite well given that it’s by Hark, which reminds us why Hark is the director in the first place.

The movie is a mixed of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and a little on A Chinese  Ghost Story (by director Ching Siu-Tung). There’s a bit of comedy at the beginning, then just a touch on the mystery appeal as well; some romance, drama and of course martial arts. A kung fu soap opera of some sort, Detective Dee is nonetheless enjoyable for most people. Not exactly the best but the movie nevertheless marks the return of Hark into the movie scene as an entertainer.