Monday, 16 January 2012

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Like your martial arts movies with excellently choreographed fight sequences of wire-work? Then you need to watch Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, even though you've never heard of it.

An exiled detective is recruited to solve a series of mysterious deaths that threaten to delay the inauguration of Empress Wu.

Who's In It
Andy Lau - Once a sidekick of Chow Yun-Fat, now in a leading role as Detective Dee
Li Bing Bing - She's been in a few movies with Jackie Chan and Jet Li
My favourite character name in the film was Dong ki Wong, which obviously sounds a lot like a certain Italian video game plumber!

There are some truly cracking fight scenes in Detective Dee
What I Thought
I decided to watch this one after reading about it on the Top 10 Best Movies of 2011. And I must say I'm rather glad I did as it's actually really good. That is if you like your martial arts movies with over-the-top wire-work sword fighting action sequences.

As the synopsis above says, an exiled Detective Dee is brought in before the inauguration of the only female Empress in China's history to solve a series of mysterious deaths before she is crowned. These deaths involve what appears to be spontaneous combustion and are quite harrowing and visual initially, through some clever computer animation.

There is a decent amount of CGI in the film, showing old China in a way that's not been seen in hundreds of years. The city and boats in the harbour are brought to life in this way, as if a 200 foot Buddha which is being built in front of the palace, which plays a large role in the plot of the film.

The empress herself has some truly amazing hairdos to rival those of Queen Amidala in Star wars. It is however the spectacular fight scenes, which are brilliantly choreographed, that steal the show in this one. One sequence that comes to mind is the fight in the Phantom Bazaar with a red robed assassin, who when he has his sleeves ripped off, they continue to fight independently of his body, before re-attaching themselves. There is also some great whip sequences, one of which involves a flying axe being twirled around the whip - has to be seen to be believed.

The only thing I really struggled with in this was when Detective Dee got out of prison and then shaved, it was initially hard to work out it was him as he looked so radically different and there was no reveal as to say ta-da, this is the cleanly shaven Dee.

The plot moves along at a decent pace with a few clever twists and turns, keeping you guessing, but the mysterious assailant and his plans are soon revealed and the movie is over before you know it. It feels like this Detective Dee character would make a good TV show after watching this.

Things I Learned
As this is a foreign language film, I thought rather than bastardise the Chinese script with English quotes I would do a section on Things I Learned from the film. Hopefully you find some of them are as humorous as the quotes I usually pull:
  • Deer can talk. They will also attack humans when you emit a high pitched deer sound.
  • Do not use the words divine intervention in vain, otherwise you'll spontaneously combust
  • Guitarists in underground bazaars have 6 arms 
  • Assassins who do not complete their task will throw themselves into fiery pits
  • Extract of turtle can also cause you to spontaneously combust
  • Two pins in the back of the head are all that's required for human transfiguration - no polyjuice potion required like Harry Potter
4/5 - Spectacular fight scenes and a decent mystery to boot

Check out some of the fight scenes and wire work in this trailer

If You Enjoyed This, You Might Also Like
Something from the East and from the West

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